Former Fox News employee sues over sexual abuse under New York state survivors law
A former Fox News employee who said she was sexually abused by the network’s late chief executive Roger Ailes has filed a lawsuit under New York state’s Adult Survivors Act.
The suit filed Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court also names 21st Century Fox, the previous moniker for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp., and Bill Shine, a top lieutenant of Ailes and former Fox News president who now works for Nexstar Media Group’s NewsNation.
Laura Luhn, who worked for 15 years at Fox News , said Ailes used his position “in a decades-long cycle of sexual abuse.” The former booker’s relationship with Ailes dated back to the early 1990s, before Fox News was launched, the lawsuit says.
The suit alleges that Ailes, who died in 2017, photographed and videotaped Luhn in compromising positions for “blackmail material” that he described as his “insurance policy” — and made clear to Luhn that any attempt to speak out or stop the abuse would result in “severe personal humiliation and career ruin.”
Before Roger Ailes made TV history with the launch of Fox News, he was considered the best political media strategist in the business.
The suit also said Fox News executives engaged in coordinated public smear campaigns against other victims of sexual abuse. “These cruel campaigns ensured the silence of other victims like Luhn,” the suit says.
In commenting on the suit, a Fox News Media representative said: “This matter was settled years ago, dismissed in subsequent litigation, and is meritless.”
Luhn, who left Fox News in 2011, is able to file suit under the New York state Adult Survivors Act, which provides a “lookback window” for survivors of sexual assault. The law’s one-year window, which went into effect Nov. 24, allows the filing of claims on cases previously time-barred by statutes of limitation.
“Luhn brings this lawsuit to finally receive compensation for all of the physical, mental, emotional, and professional harm she suffered and continues to suffer because of the severe sexual abuse at the hands of Ailes, Fox News, and its corporate enablers,” the suit says.
Michelle Gotthelf’s lawsuit contains allegations that Murdoch’s longtime lieutenant, Col Allan, allegedly propositioned her for sex and instructed her to ‘get rid of’ a story about a rape allegation against former President Trump.
Luhn previously told her story in a New York Magazine piece after Ailes was ousted from Fox News in 2016 following former anchor Gretchen Carlson’s claims that he harassed her.
Carlson received an apology from Fox and a $20-million settlement of her lawsuit, which helped propel the #MeToo movement.
Fox News used an outside law firm to investigate harassment at the company.
The movement led to the firing of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who faced multiple allegations and personally paid a $32-million settlement to one accuser.
Luhn also received a $3.15-million settlement in 2011 after she filed a sexual harassment complaint against Ailes. The settlement was paid over 12 years in annual payments of $250,000, her last salary at the network.
Cable channel NewsNation, launched last year, is searching for a lane in the highly polarized news landscape but has struggled to gain traction.
Luhn lost a defamation suit against Fox News in 2018. She claimed that Fox News Media chief executive Suzanne Scott defamed her in a Los Angeles Times interview in which Scott said that even though she was part of Ailes’ inner circle, she had no knowledge of his behavior.
Luhn was not referenced in the story or mentioned by Scott in the interview.
Luhn also filed and then withdrew a $725-million lawsuit against Showtime Networks over her portrayal in the limited series “Loudest Voice in the Room,” based on the Fox News harassment story. She claimed the series depicted her as an accomplice to Ailes, helping him set up private meetings with women he abused.
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