Leading Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has been accused of sexual harassment by a former colleague.
Former host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit against Fox News and former CEO Roger Ailes on Monday, accusing the network, its top executives, including famed talk show host Bill O’Reilly, of sexual harassment.
The $50million suit alleges that Tantaros was punished, intimidated and sexually harassed after complaining about Roger Ailes’ inappropriate behavior.
The suit also alleges that the host of ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ wanted Tantaros to demonstrate her “wild side” to him in private.
After complaining about O’Reilly’s advances, Tantaros was barred from his show.
The lawsuit is the latest of the former Outnumbered co-host’s legal entanglements with Fox News. Earlier this year, Fox claimed that she had breached her contract by writing a book without getting network approval.
According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Tantaros, 37, claims that she received unwanted sexual advances from both Ailes, 76, and Bill O’Reilly, 66, and alleges she was taken off air as retaliation for lodging the complaints. (Fox News told PEOPLE the network does not comment on pending litigation.)
“Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny,” Tantaros alleges in her suit.
Tantaros’ suit alleges she was repeatedly told by Fox executives that she could not wear pants on the air because “Roger wants to see your legs”; it’s aso claims that Ailes called her into his office in August 2014 and asked if she was planning to marry and have children.
“Ailes then started complaining about marriage in general, and also made off-color jokes about being married,” the lawsuit states, charging Ailes asked Tantaros to turn around “so I can get a good look at you,” but that Tantaros refused. Soon after, Tantaros was moved from The Five to Outnumbered, a reportedly lower-rated show that aired at midday.
The lawsuit claims Tantaros continued to rebuff Ailes and alleges she began to encounter hostility from the Fox News publicity department. The suit also alleges Tantaros was the subject of humiliating posts by pseudonymous accounts on Twitter known as “sock puppets” that she reportedly claims were instigated by the Fox News publicity department.
Tantaros also alleged she had been also been subjected to unwelcome advances from O’Reilly, whom she had regarded as a friend and adviser. The suit charges O’Reilly asked her to come stay with him on Long Island where it would be “very private,” and charges he told her on more than one occasion that he could “see [her] as a wild girl” and that he believed that she had a “wild side.”
Tantaros’ lawyer Judd Burstein told the New York Times that during arbitration, Fox News offered to pay her a sum “in the seven figures” if she renounced her claims against Ailes and others at the network, including O’Reilly.
“Ailes did not act alone,” the lawsuit states. “He may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation and retaliation.”
Tantaros is seeking $49 million in punitive damages for lost income, mental anguish and attorneys’ fees.