Judd Berstein—a lawyer representing suspended Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros in her sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, which claims that Fox News is a “sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult”—alleged yesterday in court that one of his clients received a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury. Per the New York Daily News’ reporting on the trial, Berstein said that he:
“was told by the U.S. Attorney’s office there is an ongoing criminal investigation, relating to these allegations, all of these allegations.”
ABC News reported that “sources familiar with the matter” confirmed Berstein’s comments. The alleged subpoena is to related to how Fox News and 21st Century Fox handled payments in connection to the litany of sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits filed against the former TV puppet master. Berstein claims that Fox News did not disclose these payments in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which could be a violation of federal law.
Fox News responded with the following statement:
The court granted Fox News’ motion to send Andrea Tantaros’ case to arbitration, where it always belonged, and rejected her counsel Judd Burstein’s histrionics. Apparently one of Mr. Burstein’s other clients has received a subpoena. Neither Fox News nor 21st Century Fox has received a subpoena but we have been in communication with the U.S. Attorney’s office for months—we have and will continue to cooperate on all inquiries with interested authorities.
Fox News has already settled for $20 million with former anchor Gretchen Carlson, who also filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes. Megyn Kelly corroborated the sexual harassment allegations of the 20-plus women who have come out against Ailes when she wrote in her book Settle for More that:
“Roger began pushing the limits. There was a pattern to his behavior. I would be called into Roger’s office, he would shut the door, and over the next hour or two, he would engage in a kind of cat-and-mouse game with me—veering between obviously inappropriate sexually charged comments (e.g. about the ‘very sexy bras’ I must have and how he’d like to see me in them) and legitimate professional advice.”
Obviously, any statement made by a lawyer must be taken with an entire shaker of salt—doubly so if it is made in court. However, given how all of these sexual harassment allegations include efforts to silence the victim, it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to extrapolate this silence to Fox News’ investors and the SEC. Even more so when you take into account the disgusting and empirically immoral actions that 21st Century Fox’s British tabloids took in bribing victims and hacking hundreds of cell phones earlier this decade, including deleting voicemails off of a murdered 13-year-old girl’s cellphone—giving her family false hope that she still may be alive.
Where there is smoke, there is not necessarily fire. But if there is smoke in an area which has contained fires before, then the burden of proof in the court of public opinion shifts to those who have set fires in the past. Given their prior crimes, 21st Century Fox hiding sexual harassment payments from the SEC is a relatively tame scandal, and seemingly one in a long line of a pattern of behavior which tramples over anyone not religiously devoted to the goal of spreading propaganda and disinformation designed to support the old white man’s hegemony sitting atop 21st Century Fox and Fox News.
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.