MANHATTAN (CN) — Featuring cover art of Andrea Tantaros with her hands bound in rope above her head, “Tied Up in Knots” bills itself as a study of how feminism failed the onetime Fox pundit, and women in general.
Complicating this narrative Thursday, a federal judge in New York unsealed a lawsuit by author Michael Malice who claims he reached a $150,000 deal with Tantaros to ghostwrite the screed.
A regular guest on Fox News who has collaborated with the likes of comedian D.L. Hughly and ultimate fighter Matt Hughes, Malice is also the author of “Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il.”
Suing under his legal surname Krechmer, Malice brought his claims against Tantaros under seal to honor the terms of a confidentiality agreement that he contends Tantaros nullified by breaching.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest noted in her ruling Thursday that the Fox News pundit pleaded to keep Malice in the shade.
“Defendant argues that, as a well-known television journalist, her credibility is her trade, and if plaintiffs role in helping defendant write the book was revealed it would severely undermine her credibility in the eyes of her colleagues, fans, publisher, and the wider news-media world,” the 21-page opinion states.
For Forrest, that was not enough to override the presumption of access to judicial documents.
“The court disagrees,” Forrest wrote. “A possibility of future adverse impact on employment or the celebrity status of a party is not a ‘higher value’ sufficient to overcome the presumption of access to judicial documents.”
Defense attorney Judd Burstein disputed the claims against Tantaros in an interview at the courthouse Friday.
“He was never a ghostwriter,” Burstein said of Malice. “There’s an explicit agreement that says he was an editor.”
“The claim is a complete fraud,” Burstein added. “There is compelling evidence that you’ll be able to see from the file that Fox News is behind this ridiculous case.”
Burstein argued that Malice’s lawsuit came “out of the blue” after Tantaros joined the parade of women bringing sexual-harassment lawsuits against Fox.
Conspiracy theories abound in that case as well with Tantaros claiming that Fox News used electronic surveillance, hacking and a series of fake Twitter accounts to “intimidate, terrorize, and crush [Tantaros’] career.”
Ridiculing the allegations as reminiscent of the “plot of a television drama,” Fox News filed a sanctions motion in May, but Burstein has not backed down for fear of judicial reprisal.
“This is their standard,” he said. “They just try to bully you in every way. Every case you file, there’s a motion for sanctions, no matter how frivolous it is.”
Burstein claims to have hard evidence of Fox’s fingerprints in Malice’s suit.
Per the terms of her employment agreement, the sex-bias lawsuit that Tantaros filed in Manhattan Supreme Court has been moved to arbitration. These proceedings are supposed to be secret, but Fox apparently caught wind of them.
Judge Forrest appears to allude to this in a footnote of her order relating to a third party.
“The court finds it difficult to account for apparent third-party knowledge of this matter and of the parties involved without concluding that plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel may have violated this court’s sealing order, and that this violation may have been deliberate,” the footnote states.
The New York Times published another piece of the puzzle in a June article relating to the mayoral bid of retired police detective Bo Dietl.
As the Times reported, Fox News hired Dietl to spy on Tantaros and Gretchen Carlson, another ousted Fox pundit, once their accusations against Roger Ailes, the network’s now late chairman, came to light.
“One investigator tried to persuade the ghostwriter of Ms. Tantaros’s book to provide compromising information about her,” the Times reported.
Burstein meanwhile claims that Malice only recently started using the word “ghostwriter” to describe his work on the book, as an attempt to tarnish his client.
Judge Forrest relied on 2007 precedent Thursday to make the case that celebrity does not justify secrecy.
In a case involving the late King of Pop Michael Jackson, Forrest explained, “the court rejected the notion that ‘a generalized concern of adverse publicity concerning a public figure is a sufficiently compelling reason that outweighs the presumption of access.”
Malice’s attorney, Jay Wolman with the Connecticut-based Randazza Legal Group, has not responded to a request for comment. Fox meanwhile declined to comment. “This is a financial dispute that Fox News has nothing to do with,” a spokeswoman for the network said.