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Ex-Fox News contributor Laura Luhn sues network for sexual harassment and blackmail of Roger Ailes

Former Fox News contributor Laura Luhn is suing the network over decades of alleged abuse by the late CEO Roger Ailes — including an allegation that he blackmailed her with sexually explicit videos. The lawsuit, which also includes claims against former co-president Bill Shine and parent company 21st Century Fox, is filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily lifts the statute of limitations for certain sexual misconduct claims.

In a Wednesday filing, Luhn alleges Ailes subjected her to sexual abuse, discrimination, manipulation and threats over two decades. Ailes stepped down from the company he founded in 2016 after several women, including anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. She is suing Fox News for unlawful discrimination and negligence, and Shine for complicity in the actions. Shine resigned in 2017 amid allegations that he covered up Ailes’ behavior.

“Roger Ailes used his position as head of Fox News to trap Laura W. Luhn in a decades-long cycle of sexual abuse,” the filing states. The Hollywood Reporter obtained through the portal of the New York State Court before an index number was assigned. “To ensure her compliance and public silence, Ailes photographed and filmed Luhn in compromising positions — blackmail material he explicitly described as his ‘insurance policy’ — and made it clear to Luhn that any attempt to speak out or stop the abuse would result in severe personal humiliation and career ruin.”

Her complaint, which relates to misconduct from 1991-2011, is now filed because the ASA, which was signed into law on May 24, 2022 by Governor Kathy Hochul, effectively suspends time limits on sex crime claims during a one-year review period that was opened on November 24. It contains a provision that allows claims against employers if the incident involved the workplace.

Luhn says she first met Ailes at President George HW Bush’s campaign headquarters in 1988, prior to his election. Years later he hired her at his then company Ailes Communications. Luhn says she had to give Ailes regular oral sex, that he called her his “sex slave,” and demanded she wear a black garter and stockings, which he called her “uniform,” during a meeting in a hotel room shortly afterwards. she went to work for him. During that meeting, in which he allegedly referred to her as his “whore” and “spy” and demanded that she do whatever he tells her to do, wherever or whenever, Luhn says he videotaped her and said that he “would take it up”. a safe, so we understand each other.

Ailes brought Luhn with her when he launched Fox News, saying she viewed it as a one-time opportunity that she took because she didn’t believe “another attack would happen or be a condition of her job”.

She claims that he often required her to travel from D.C., where she was based, to New York for “booking meetings” and that she would stay at a different hotel than the one Fox News employees usually used, which she paid and said “raised eyebrows”. at the company.

“Ailes left no doubt that he viewed these forced acts as consideration for Luhn’s promotions and career progression at Fox News,” the filing said. “At one point after promoting Luhn to Manager of Booking in June 2004, Ailes demanded, ‘Now remember you are Doris Day. Put on your uniform, go to the DoubleTree and thank me for this.’”

Luhn says the abuse escalated and he forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Fox News second-floor office in 2005, which she says happened at least five times between 2002 and 2005. According to the complaint, he forced her to perform oral sex on the other woman and turned violent.

The complaint also includes accounts of other female Fox News employees reporting misconduct, which she said were often responded to with thinly veiled threats and comments such as “boys will be boys.” Luhn says Ailes told her he had “complete control over the Human Resources Department” and claims that numerous executives knew about his behavior. When the company became concerned that she might come out with her story, Luhn claims, Ailes monitored her email communications and insisted on seeing all outgoing messages so he could check her response.

“Eventually, the years of abuse led to Luhn having a nervous breakdown. During the breakdown — of which Fox News was well aware — Ailes’ ax man, Defendant Shine, took it upon himself to control Luhn’s personal life, manage her medical care, and make sure she remained publicly silent about the sexual abuse,” the statement said. At the direction of her psychiatrist, she wrote a letter detailing the abuse – which she said she sent to the company’s attorney without consulting a lawyer. In the end, they came to a settlement.

The Adult Survivors Act doesn’t cover claims that were previously settled, but Luhn says she was forced to agree to the deal.

“Luhn lived in fear of angering Ailes and the resulting retribution if she asked for enough money to actually compensate her for the abuse and trauma,” the complaint said. “Luhn accepted a settlement that was only her current salary until she reached retirement age ($250,000 x 12 years). Fox News withheld more than 30% of the settlement for taxes as they would for a wage payment or severance payment. While this settlement was inadequate, Luhn’s dire financial situation (caused by her inability to work due to the trauma of the assaults) combined with her oppressive fear of the Fox News machine and Shine’s continued control over her life forced her to capitulate.

She is suing Fox News and 21st Century Fox for negligence and unlawful discriminatory practices, the latter alleging that Ailes’s alleged conduct and the company’s handling of the situation was because of her gender, and Shine for complicity in unlawful discriminatory practices. She demands compensation and an amount to be determined.

In a statement to THRLuhn’s attorney, Barbara Whiten Balliette of Reid Collins & Tsai, said: “The abuse Ms. Luhn endured was one of the worst imaginable. People knew about it, but no one at Fox News stepped in to stop it. Her career and her life were destroyed. The Adult Survivors Act was created to right these kinds of wrongs.”

Fox News has not yet responded to a request for comment on the complaint.

Luhn first went public with her claims against Ailes in July 2016 New York magazine story, calling him a “predator” and saying she found the experience “psychological torture.” She told the magazine that he demanded sexual favors and was asked to “lure” young female employees into meeting Ailes alone. At the time of the story, Ailes’ attorney Susan Estrich denied the allegations, saying, “It is distressing that she is the subject of journalistic exploitation by a reporter.” Ailes died in 2017 from complications following a fall in which he hit his head.

In April 2019, Luhn sued Fox News and CEO Suzanne Scott for defamation after the exec denied in an interview with the executive that he knew of Ailes’ misconduct. Los Angeles Times. U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich dismissed the lawsuit, finding that Scott’s comments “were not ‘of and concerning’ Luhn” noting that and “at no point did the Time article even refers to Luhn.”

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