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A former Fox News Channel employee is suing Showtime and others over a planned TV series about Roger Ailes that she says will portray her as an accomplice to alleged sexual abuse instead of one of the late CEO’s primary victims.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Larry Klayman on behalf of Laurie Luhn at the Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon, alleges she endured forced sex, blackmail and smear campaigns at the hands of Ailes to such an extent she contemplated suicide.
Nevertheless, Luhn’s attorney says Showtime’s upcoming series, based on Gabriel Sherman’s book The Loudest Voice in the Room, is planning to show her as a pimp for Ailes, willingly lining up women for him to sexually assault.
The lawsuit, filed against CBS’ Showtime channel, Blumhouse Productions and Sherman, seeks at least $750 million and a permanent injunction that will prevent the defendants from engaging in any commercial use of Luhn’s story.
Before suing the defendants, Luhn had reached out to become a consultant on the show to ensure she was portrayed accurately. Her assumption that the show will portray her as an aider and abettor to Ailes is based on a news article Sherman wrote that said Luhn “denied ever setting Ailes up with her staff for explicitly sexual purposes, but she did send them in for private meetings with him where she knew they could be exposed to sexual harassment.”
The lawsuit, though, also serves as a window into the bizarre way that Ailes, who died in 2017 after stepping down disgraced a year earlier, allegedly kept in line the women he abused.
Luhn, who worked on shows hosted by Brit Hume and Tony Snow before Ailes promoted her a few times, said she was required to snitch on Fox News employees who might not be loyal. He boasted of “training” her with mind-control techniques used by the CIA and demanded she follow orders as if she were “G.I. Jane” while ordering her to act as if she were “Doris Day.”
Luhn said she “was forced to purchase black garters and stockings to wear for Ailes, which he called her ‘uniform,’” according to the lawsuit. Co-workers, and even those in journalism and politics but not working for Fox News, began referring to her as “Roger’s spy,” and Ailes said he kept compromising photos and videos of Luhn as an insurance policy to keep her quiet
When Luhn received a promotion in 2004, Ailes told her “to go to the Doubletree Hotel in Times Square, put on her ‘uniform’ and thank him for the promotion.” Then he forced her to “perform oral sex,” the lawsuit says.
“Ailes also utilized Fox News’ management and media relations department to monitor, harass, threaten and gaslight” Luhn, according to the lawsuit, which also claims that Ailes told her repeatedly over the course of 20 years: “I own you.” He also frightened her into submission by telling her that “George Soros and Hillary Clinton were trying to kill her.” One of the photos he threatened to release involved three-way sex with Ailes, Luhn and a woman he referred to as a “friend.”
When “rumors and gossip” about Ailes and Luhn caught the attention of a Wall Street Journal reporter, the media relations arm of Fox News was tasked “with the role of smearing and discrediting” Luhn, and she was even removed from the news division to convince the reporter he was working on a non-story.
The lawsuit demeans the behavior of several other former and current Fox News employees, including Bill Shine, the former president of Fox News who is now White House deputy chief of staff for communications for President Donald Trump, and Irena Briganti, now executive vp of corporate communications for Fox News.
But Fox News is not a defendant in the lawsuit, and the salacious details of Luhn’s accusations are more to serve as evidence that she was a victim of Ailes, not a lackey who set up innocent women to be victimized by him, which is how Luhn presumes she’ll be depicted in the Showtime series. The show stars Russell Crowe as Ailes, Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson, the first prominent person to accuse Ailes of harassment, and Annabelle Wallis plays Luhn.
The lawsuit alleges that Sherman, the writer, “coerced and induced” Luhn into an interview by claiming she was in “danger” and a story by him would offer her “protection.” The lawsuit says there are more than 11 hours of audio of the Sherman-Luhn interview and asserts that the journalist “capitalized on her very vulnerable state of mind, PTSD and exploited an already terrified, confused and emotionally shattered woman.”
The lawsuit says that the resulting article, published in New York magazine on July 29, 2016, was filled with “false, misleading and defamatory statements and innuendos.”
The lawsuit says that Luhn and her attorney “tried to resolve the serious matters set forth in this verified complaint, but defendants, each and every one of them, have arrogantly refused, obviously believing that their self-styled powerful standing in Hollywood and the entertainment industry and far superior financial positions would dissuade plaintiff from filing this lawsuit.”
They are suing Showtime, Blumhouse and Sherman for actual and compensatory damages in excess of $250 million and for punitive damages in excess of $500 million “to punish and impress upon defendants the seriousness of their conduct and to deter similar conduct in the future.”
The lawsuit also says that Luhn reached out to Eric Holder when he was attorney general to discuss Ailes, but instead was directed to meet with first assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Blankenship. “Very shaken and frightened,” Luhn outlined “in graphic detail years of abuse and sexual torture,” but Blankenship and his aide “were dismissive,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit was filed by Klayman, of Klayman Law Group in Washington, and John Holt Smith, of Smith & Associates in Dallas, Texas.
Showtime and Blumhouse had no comment.
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