Ooops, did something mention the “H” word around the Murdochs and Fox News? Someone did, and you could almost hear a very painful snapping sound as the heads of the three Murdoch men (Rupert, Lachlan and especially James) came to attention at the latest legal claim from a former staffer and alleged victim of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.

In an action filed on Monday in New York, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros has claimed that network operatives hacked her phones and emails to conduct a smear campaign against her after she reported sexual harassment complaints against former CEO Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. As well as Ailes, her action also names current co-president Bill Shine, Fox PR executive Irena Briganti and social-media consultant Peter Snyder as defendants.

This is Tantaros’ second suit against Fox. Last August, she filed suit in New York state court, but the judge in that case ruled to move the matter to private arbitration. Tantaros is being represented by Judd Burstein, the lawyer who successfully negotiated a reported US$8 million settlement for former Fox News PR chief Brian Lewis. Burtsein is also the lawyer who revealed in an open court during Tantaros’ earlier action in New York that the US Justice Department was starting to interview witnesses in its investigation of Fox and 21st Century Fox.

A statement from lawyers at Dechert, Fox News’ law firm, said: “Fox News and its executives flatly deny that they conducted any electronic surveillance of Ms Tantaros. They have no knowledge of the anonymous or pseudonymous tweets described in her complaint. This lawsuit is a flimsy pretext to keep Ms Tantaros and her sexual harassment claims in the public eye after the state Supreme Court directed her to bring them in arbitration.” A lawyer for Snyder claimed the law suit was “sham”.

Ailes’ lawyers continue to deny the claims of harassment made by a still-growing list of former female employees, contributors and guests on Fox News over more than two decades. O’Reilly is saying something similar. But both continue to refuse to explain why they were involved in multi million dollar settlements of some of the claims, especially O’Reilly.  — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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