WASHINGTON — Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros claims in a new lawsuit that former senator Scott Brown made sexually inappropriate comments to her while on set and put his hands on her lower waist.
Tantaros, who says she complained to superiors about Brown’s conduct, outlines her complaint in a lawsuit filed Monday in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The complaint, which also includes accusations of harassment by former network head Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly, portrays a corporate culture at Fox News that tolerated sexual misconduct.
“Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values,” she says in the suit. “But behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.”
Brown is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which lists five defendants, as well as the Fox News Network. He dismissed the accusations as false in an e-mail to the Globe within minutes of learning the details of Tantaros’s complaints.
“Her statement about our limited on-air, green-room interactions are false,” Brown said. “There were never any circumstances of any kind whatsoever in which I had any interaction with her or any other employee at Fox, outside the studio.”
Tantaros asserts halfway through the 37-page suit that Brown, while appearing on her show “Outnumbered” in August 2015, “made a number of sexually inappropriate comments to Tantaros on set.”
She claims that he told her, “in a suggestive manner,” that she “would be fun to go to a nightclub with.”
“After the show was over, Brown snuck up behind Tantaros while she was purchasing lunch and put his hands on her lower waist,” the lawsuit says. “She immediately pulled back, telling Brown to ‘stop.’ ”
Brown told the Globe that all of his interactions and contacts with Tantaros were in the New York studio, “and always in full view of all staff, personnel, and talent.” Any chance encounters at a restaurant or other public places were “professional and cordial,” he said.
“In the three years I have been working there, I treat all people there the same, whether they be male or female,” Brown said. “In addition, I don’t go to clubs.”
Prior to joining Fox News, Tantaros had served as press secretary to the Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives and worked as a communications director for Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.
Brown, a Republican, represented Massachusetts as senator for three years, beginning in 2010 after beating Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in a special election to succeed the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Democrat Elizabeth Warren defeated Brown in 2012. Brown then moved to Rye, N.H., where he ran again for US Senate and lost in 2014.
Prior to joining Fox News in February 2013 as an on-air contributor, Brown was known mostly for crisscrossing Massachusetts in his truck as he campaigned for Senate. He is a former state senator, and, as was widely reported during his campaigns, posed nude as a Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold in 1982.
Brown is married to Gail Huff, a television correspondent for NH1 News in Concord, N.H. The couple recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary and renewed their vows.
“Scott’s a family man. I’ve seen that his respect toward women stem from his strong relationship with his loving wife Gail and their two accomplished daughters,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist who had been a consultant on Brown’s races. “Scott and Gail operate as a team. She has as much say in his professional life as he does.”
Williams, while unfamiliar with the details of the lawsuit, said, “In my interactions with Senator Brown, he’s always been respectful and professional with women who have worked with him and for him.”
In interviews Tuesday, women who had worked for Brown noted that he named a number of female leaders to his campaign and Senate staff; they said he always treated them with respect. A top-level Brown staffer who did not want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the topic said that she, too, was shocked by Tantaros’s allegations.
“He would be the first person to bust somebody’s head open if someone treated his daughters or his wife in any way that was inappropriate,” she said.
She pointed out that Brown himself was sexually abused as a child by a camp counselor, which Brown revealed in his 2011 autobiography, “Against All Odds.”
“As a survivor of sexual abuse, I would never perpetuate language or actions as described in Fox complaint,” Brown wrote Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. “Actions referenced are fabricated.”
His former staffer remembered one previous accusation of harassment that was later withdrawn, which she discovered while vetting Brown during one of his campaigns.
The woman who accused him, Jennifer Firth, filed a civil defamation suit in 2000 alleging that Brown had harassed her two years prior when she volunteered to work on his campaign for Massachusetts state representative. Firth accused Brown of trying to defame and humiliate her after she confronted him. Brown said at the time that Firth was the one harassing and stalking him; both had served on the Wrentham Board of Selectmen.
Firth did not return requests for comment. Her attorney at the time, Harvey Schwartz, said in an e-mail to the Globe Tuesday that he withdrew the case almost immediately after it was filed when Brown’s attorneys provided him with information that caused him to question the information Firth had provided him.
“As a result of receiving that information I concluded that it would be unethical for me to continue with the case,” Schwartz said. “Whatever the merits of the present case, I don’t believe the former case has any relevance.”
On Tuesday, Brown said that prior to learning he was named in Tantaros’s lawsuit, he was never made aware of any issues at Fox and that his schedule for appearances has never changed.
Tantaros claims that she immediately met with senior news executive Bill Shine to complain, asking Shine to make sure Brown would never be booked on the show again. She alleges that Shine told her he would address the situation, but Brown continued to be booked on her show.
Tantaros’s lawsuit also details “a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes,” who she says regularly asked her and other female on-air personalities to “turn around so I can get a good look at you” and retaliated against her for rebuffing his sexual advances.
Her complaint pointedly noted that it was “not just about Ailes; it also gives life to the saying that ‘the fish stinks from the head.’ For Ailes did not act alone.”
Tantaros’s lawsuit comes on the heels of explosive sexual harassment allegations by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, which prompted Ailes to resign. Following the ouster of Ailes, Shine is now the copresident of Fox News.
A Fox News spokeswoman said the network does not comment on pending litigation.Tracy Jan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TracyJan.