Former Fox News staffer Laura Luhn has sued the network and its parent company over alleged “decades-long” sexual abuse and blackmail by late CEO Roger Ailes, according to the lawsuit obtained by TheWrap.
The Wednesday filing names Fox News, parent company 21st Century Fox and former network executive William Shine as defendants. It alleges Ailes, who died in 2017, “used his position as the head of Fox News to trap Laura W. Luhn in a decades-long cycle of sexual abuse.”
“To ensure her compliance and public silence, Ailes photographed and videotaped Luhn in compromising positions — blackmail material that he explicitly 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,” the suit states.
Fox News Media denied the allegations in a statement to TheWrap, saying “this matter was settled years ago, dismissed in subsequent litigation, and is meritless.”
The suit claims that Fox News’ corporate leadership, including Shine, knew about the abuse and did not take action to stop it, going further to allege that network execs “engaged in coordinated public smear campaigns against other victims of sexual abuse” — several of which Luhn witnessed — that would ensure Luhn’s silence.
Fearing retribution if she shared her abuse, Luhn suffered a mental breakdown, according to the suit, during which Shine “took it upon himself to control Luhn’s personal life,” including managing her medical care and ensuring her silence by having Luhn sign a “‘release’ of her claims.”
Despite remaining silent for years, Luhn has decided to come forward under the recently enacted New York’s Adult Survivor’s Act — which empowers survivors of sexual assault file claims that occurred when they were over the age of 18 to sue their abusers regardless of when the abuse occurred.
“The abuse that Ms. Luhn suffered was some of the worst imaginable,” Luhn’s attorney Barbara Whiten Balliette said. “People knew, 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 redress wrongs exactly like these.”
The lawsuit seeks to provide compensation for Luhn for the physical, mental, emotional, and professional harm she suffered and continues to suffer, with compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial.
Luhn began her career at Fox News in 1996 as a Guest Relations Staffer before rising to Director of Booking in 2006 and ultimately becoming Senior Director of Corporate and Special Events, a position she held from 2007 to 2011, when she left the network.