Former Fox News Employee Sues Network, Alleging Ailes Sexually Abused Her
A former Fox News employee sued the network Wednesday, alleging that the late Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes sexually abused her for years.
Laura Luhn, who worked at the network for nearly 15 years, filed the lawsuit in New York state court against Fox News, its former parent company 21st Century Fox, and former network executive Bill Shine, accusing the network of “directly enabling” and “actively covering up” the abuse.
In the lawsuit, Luhn says Ailes, who died in 2017, “used his position as head of Fox News to trap Laura W. Luhn in a decades-long cycle of sexual abuse.” Luhn alleges that the first instance of abuse of her took place in 1991 when she worked at her firm Ailes Communications and continued when she joined Fox News in 1996, calling it “repeated and habitual.”
“Ailes’ abuse of Luhn was among the worst he inflicted on his many victims,” the lawsuit states. “He physically forced Luhn to regularly perform oral sex on him. And she constantly reminded Luhn that he was her ‘owner’ of her, that she was her ‘sex slave’ and that she was forbidden to tell anyone about her abuse or he would make her pay. very expensive “.
The lawsuit alleges that Ailes photographed and videotaped Luhn “performing coerced sexual acts” and in “compromising positions” and used the footage as blackmail. Ailes allegedly made it clear that if he attempted to speak out or stop the abuse, Luhn would experience “severe personal humiliation and the ruin of his career,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges that corporate leaders, including Shine, were aware of Ailes’ conduct but “did nothing to stop it” and “engaged in coordinated public smear campaigns” against the victims to ensure their silence.
Luhn says in the lawsuit that in 2011 he sent a letter to Fox’s general counsel detailing the abuse of Ailes. Luhn says he did not sue, but agreed to a settlement with the network that paid his salary until retirement age, which totaled $250,000 a year for 12 years. The lawsuit says the network withheld more than 30% of the tax payment.
“Although this arrangement was inadequate, Luhn’s dire financial situation (caused by her inability to work due to trauma from the sexual assaults) combined with her oppressive fear of the Fox News machine and Shine’s continued control over her life forced her to to capitulate”. the claim alleges.
Luhn had no other job after 2011, according to his lawyer.
Fox News Media, which owns Fox News, said in a statement that “this matter was settled years ago, dismissed in subsequent litigation, and is without merit.” Fox News’ former parent company, 21st Century Fox, ceased to exist in 2019.
Shine did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He left Fox News in 2017 and worked in the Trump administration as the White House deputy chief of staff for communications and then as communications director in 2018 and 2019 before joining President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Luhn sued under New York’s Adult Survivors Law, enacted last year, which allows survivors of alleged sexual assaults to file a lawsuit outside of the original statute of limitations.
“This case is about finally securing justice for Ms. Luhn. The sexual abuse she suffered while working at Fox News was some of the worst imaginable,” said Luhn’s attorney, Barbara Whiten Balliette, a partner at Reid Collins & Tsai LLP. “This abuse went on for years and some of the most powerful people at Fox News knew about it, but no one stepped in to help or stop what was happening to Ms. Luhn.”
Luhn spoke about the alleged abuse in a 2016 New York Magazine article, calling it “psychological torture” and labeling Ailes a “predatory.”
Luhn also lost a defamation suit against Fox News and the network’s CEO Suzanne Scott in 2019 after Scott denied knowing about Ailes’ sexual misconduct.