Laura Luhn, a former employee of Fox News, is suing the network over years of alleged mistreatment by the late CEO Roger Ailes, including claims that he extorted her with pornographic tapes.

The lawsuit was filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily suspends the statute of limitations on some sexual misconduct allegations. It also names former co-president Bill Shine and the parent firm 21st Century Fox.

Ailes allegedly subjected Luhn to sexual abuse, discrimination, manipulation, and threats over the course of two decades, according to a document filed on Wednesday. Following charges of sexual harassment and misbehavior from many women, including anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, Ailes left the corporation he created in 2016. She is suing Shine and Fox News for their complicity in the unconstitutional discrimination and negligence. On the heels of accusations that he hid Ailes’ actions, Shine resigned in 2017.

When Ailes founded Fox News, he brought Luhn along with him, and Luhn claimed she accepted the offer because she didn’t think “another assault would happen or be a condition of her employment.”

She claims that he frequently required her to travel from Washington, D.C., where she was based, to New York for “booking meetings” and that he insisted she stay at a different hotel than the one Fox News employees typically stayed at. She claimed that this “raised eyebrows” at the company and that she had to pay for the trips on her own dime.

The complaint claims that Ailes “left no room for question” that he saw Luhn’s promotions and career progress at Fox News as a trade-off for these coerced actions. “Ailes once commanded, “Now, remember, you’re Doris Day,” after elevating Luhn to Manager of Booking in June 2004. Put on your uniform, head over to the DoubleTree, and tell me I’m grateful.

The most traumatic incidents of abuse, according to Luhn, occurred when Ailes forced her to have sadomasochistic sex with him and another woman, which she claims happened at least five times between 2002 and 2005. Luhn claims the abuse intensified and she was forced to perform oral sex on him in his office on the second floor of Fox News in 2005. He allegedly turned violent and coerced her into having oral sex with the other woman.

The complaint also includes examples of other female Fox News employees who complained about misbehavior. She claims that these reports were frequently met with veiled threats and statements like “boys will be boys” in response. According to Luhn, Ailes informed her he had “total control of the HR department” and that many executives were aware of his actions. According to Luhn, Ailes kept track of her email correspondence and insisted on viewing all outgoing messages as the business grew concerned she may reveal her story. This was done so he could manage her response, she says.

“Luhn eventually experienced a mental collapse as a result of the years of abuse. “Defendant Shine, Ailes’s hatchet man, took it upon himself to regulate Luhn’s personal life, oversee her medical care, and maintain her public silence about the sexual assault throughout the breakdown, of which Fox News was well aware,” claims the complaint. On the advice of her psychiatrist, she wrote a letter outlining the abuse, which she claims she forwarded to the company’s general counsel without first contacting a lawyer. They settled their dispute in the end.

Even though claims that have already been settled are not covered by the Adult Survivors Act, Luhn believes she was forced into accepting the arrangement.

According to the complaint, “Luhn lived in fear of upsetting Ailes and the subsequent reprisal if she sought for enough money to actually recompense her for the abuse and anguish.” “Luhn agreed to a compensation that was equal to her 12-year current pay ($250,000) up until retirement age. Like they would with a paycheck or severance payment, Fox News withheld over 30% of the settlement for taxes. Although this compensation was insufficient, Luhn was obliged to give in because of her precarious financial condition (induced by her inability to work due to the trauma of the sexual assaults), her suffocating fear of the Fox News network, and Shine’s continuous control over her life.

She is suing Fox News, 21st Century Fox, Shine, and Shine for aiding and abetting unlawful discriminatory activities. 21st Century Fox claims that Ailes’ alleged actions and the company’s handling of the incident were motivated by her sex. She is asking for unspecified amounts of compensatory and punitive damages.

The torture that Ms. Luhn endured was some of the worst that could have been imagined, according to a statement from her attorney Barbara Whiten Balliette of Reid Collins & Tsai. Even though many were aware, no one at Fox News intervened to stop it. Her life and her career were ruined. To right wrongs like this, the Adult Survivors Act was developed.

Requests for response regarding the complaint have not yet been answered by Fox News.

In a July 2016 New York Magazine article, Luhn first made her allegations against Ailes public. She referred to him as a “predator” and claimed that the encounter felt like “psychological torture.” She claimed to the magazine that he sought sexual favors and that she had been asked to “entice” young female employees into a one-on-one meeting with Ailes. Ailes’ lawyer Susan Estrich refuted the claims at the time of the publication and remarked, “It is worrisome that she is the subject of one reporter’s journalistic abuse.” Ailes passed away in 2017 as a result of complications from a tumble in which he banged his head.

Following Scott’s denial of knowledge of Ailes’ misbehavior in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in April 2019, Luhn filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News and the company’s CEO. Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, of the U.S. District Court, dismissed the lawsuit after concluding that Scott’s remarks “were not ‘of and affecting’ Luhn” and that “at no point does the Times piece even identify Luhn.”


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