MANHATTAN (CN) — As Bill O’Reilly lost his job Wednesday, an old rivalry that his Fox News program often gave airtime flared up again, this time in court.
Nomiki Konst kindled the flames of the feud on Twitter, hearkening back to her regular appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor” where she often sparred with Andrea Tantaros, a conservative pundit who like O’Reilly has found herself on the outs with Fox.
“Remember that time Bill O'Reilly kicked me off a weekly spot on his show after Andrea Tantaros physically attacked me & threatened me?” Konst asked her more than 55,000 Twitter followers on Tuesday. “I do!”
Having already depicted Fox News as a “Playboy Mansion-like cult” in a 2016 lawsuit, Tantaros wasted little time to respond, slapping Konst with a suit for defamation Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Konst, now a star reporter for the progressive Young Turks Network, did not immediately provide a comment on the 7-page complaint. As Tantaros tells it, her treatment in the tweet is part of a vast smear campaign Fox News has orchestrated against its accusers.
Tantaros' claims draw from a Salon story this week that said disgraced former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes had hired New Media Strategies to create "sock-puppet" blogs called the Girls of Fox News, which promoted female news anchors in a sexist manner.
That April 18 article quotes Pete Snyder, the former CEO of New Media Strategies, as denying any connection to those websites. But Tantaros now claims in her lawsuit that Snyder and his new company, Disruptor Inc., went on the offensive against Fox's accusers.
Attorneys for Snyder, who is not a party to the new Tantaros lawsuit, strenuously deny these claims.
“The timing of the Konst tweet — one hour and 17 minutes after Tantaros’s counsel informed Snyder's counsel that Tantaros would be going forward with her lawsuit against Snyder no later than April 20, 2017 — is highly suspicious,” the complaint says.
Tantaros claims that Konst fired off her tweet “at the behest of” Fox’s spokeswoman Irena Briganti, hoping to get invited back on her old platform.
“Konst had a strong motive to do Briganti's bidding because Konst desperately wants to appear regularly on Fox News,” the complaint says.
Tantaros charged Konst and Briganti with libel per se, the legal term for falsely accusing someone in print of committing a crime.
The ex-pundit's conspiracy narrative has been denied by almost every party.
“I had nothing whatsoever to do with Ms. Konst’s decision to publish a tweet about her views on Bill O’Reilly, in which she mentioned Andrea Tantaros,” Briganti said in a statement through her attorneys at Dechert LLP. “I have never even met or spoken with Ms. Konst.”
Randy Mastro, an attorney for Snyder with the firm Gibson Dunn, also denied that Snyder had been behind any social-media campaign against Tantaros.
“This lawsuit has nothing to do with Pete Snyder, who hasn't worked for Fox News since 2012, other than as an on-air contributor," Mastro said in an email. "The allegations about Mr. Snyder are false, and included for no other purpose than to try to pressure him into a settlement, as the pleading admits. It's a sham and a shakedown, which we won't fall for. So whatever Ms. Tantaros' claims against Fox, she should leave Pete Snyder out of it.”
Other than the timing, Tantaros cites little evidence in her complaint suggesting coordination between Konst and Briganti.
The politics of The Young Turks, which currently employs Konst, could not be farther apart from her former platform on Fox News.
Reaching 50 million monthly viewers on YouTube, The Young Turks had been one of the few influential broadcasters that ran mostly sympathetic coverage of Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary. Konst had been a Sanders surrogate during that campaign.
Konst, who also hosts the three-hour show “The Filter” on SiriusXM Progress, has delivered commentary on networks across the political spectrum, including CNN, CBS, MSNBC and several other networks.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that O’Reilly will receive a severance package of $25 million, the equivalent of one year’s salary.
UltraViolet, a Washington-based group that petitioned for O’Reilly’s ouster, denounced the big payout, which it noted comes on the heels of a $40 million payment to Ailes after the CEO was fired.
“In the past year alone, in response to a rampant culture of sexual abuse at Fox News, 21st Century Fox has paid out more than of $65 million in golden parachutes to the male serial sexual abusers,” the group’s chief campaigns officer Karin Roland said in a statement. “That is more than four times what they have paid to the women who were the victims of this abusive culture. This is disgusting. Shareholders, advertisers, Fox News employees and viewers should be deeply disturbed by the perverse incentives at Fox News —in which serial sexual abusers walk away with big checks and zero accountability.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the reporting in a Salon article about Fox News and New Media Strategies. Courthouse News regrets the error.
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