Fox News Beats Laurie Luhn's Defamation Lawsuit

Laurie Luhn -White House Correspondents' Association Dinner After-Party  2007 -Getty-H 2019
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Fox News and its CEO Suzanne Scott have defeated a $120 million lawsuit from an ex-staffer who alleged she was defamed when Scott denied knowledge of Roger Ailes' sexual misconduct in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Laurie Luhn in April sued the company and Scott, alleging that she was sexual abused by Roger Ailes and defamed. Luhn reported the alleged abuse to the U.S. Attorney General's office in 2011 and later settled with Fox News, but says she was "coerced" into agreeing to it. 

Scott was named CEO in 2018 after two years of relentless press coverage of the company following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Ailes and his ouster from the company. The Los Angeles Times profiled her in April, and it's that story that sparked Luhn's lawsuit. In it, Scott says she "had no clue what was going on" in Ailes' office, despite being part of his inner circle, and told Fox employees that in meetings about improving the company culture for women.

Luhn alleged Scott's denial that she knew about Ailes' misconduct implied that Luhn fabricated allegations of sexual abuse and a cover-up. Fox in August filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on Thursday sided with the network.

"Scott’s statements from the Los Angeles Times article were not 'of and concerning' Luhn, and no reasonable reader could have interpreted them as such," writes Friedrich. "Indeed, at no point does the Times article even reference Luhn."

But, even if they could be interpreted as being about Luhn, Friedrich finds Scott's statements weren't defamatory.

"Luhn’s inference — that Scott’s denial of knowledge of any abuse calls into question Luhn’s own allegations of abuse — is not a reasonable one," writes Friedrich. "Indeed, Scott’s other comments for the article — that she 'felt devastated for the women who work here' and 'wanted to do everything [she] could to heal this place' — reflect her apparent belief in Luhn’s (and other women’s) allegations."

Luhn's claim for false light invasion of privacy fails for the same reason, and Friedrich found no "extreme and outrageous conduct" to support her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Read the full opinion below.)

Larry Klayman, Luhn's attorney, told the The Hollywood Reporter he has appealed the decision and, in response to a request for comment, shared a link to an op-ed he wrote Saturday for WND saying he believes Trump-appointed Friedrich dismissed the case "to protect Fox News, a supporter of the president who put her on the bench."

Nov. 11, 1:45 p.m. Updated with information from Luhn's attorney.