Ex-Fox News Staffer Sues Network Over Alleged Sexual Mistreatment

Roger Ailes and Laurie Luhn Split-H 2016
Wesley Mann/FOX News via Getty Images; Paul Morigi/WireImage

Former Fox News executive Laurie Luhn has filed a $120 million lawsuit against the company where she once worked and its current CEO, Suzanne Scott, alleging that she was sexual abused by Roger Ailes — the former chief executive of the cable news giant who stepped down amid multiple accusations of sexual misconduct — and that there is an effort to discredit her accusations.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in D.C. District Court by Larry Klayman — an attorney who is routinely dismissed by his detractors as a conspiracy theorist — also adds a new wrinkle to the high-profile accusations leveled at Ailes and Fox News: a vague reference to "child porn usage" at the channel's Washington bureau.

Previously, Klayman sued Showtime, Blumhouse Productions and writer Gabriel Sherman on behalf of Luhn over the upcoming TV series about Ailes, alleging that the show portrays Luhn as a "pimp" for the now-deceased former Fox News CEO.

The new lawsuit against Fox News alleges that the company at large, along with Scott, sought to bury evidence that Ailes was sexually harassing some female employees and that both somehow defamed Luhn by doing so. One piece of evidence cited is a Los Angeles Times profile quoting Scott saying "she had no knowledge" of Ailes' alleged behavior.

While Luhn isn't mentioned in the Times story, Klayman argues that Scott was told of Luhn's complaints against Ailes and was therefore his "enabler." He also says in the lawsuit that "by making the provably false statement that she was not aware of any of Ailes' sexual harassment, Defendant Scott has defamed, smeared and discredited Plaintiff Luhn by calling her a liar and creating the false implication that Plaintiff Luhn fabricated sexual assault allegations against Ailes."

The Times article, titled "Fox News Chief Executive Suzanne Scott Keeps Her Focus on Winning," was published on April 3 and written by Stephen Battaglio.

A person close to Scott says that she never excused or denied the behavior of Ailes. In the Times piece, she says: "I felt devastated for the women who work here."

As for that single reference to child pornography, Klayman claims that "on information and belief there were also cover-ups which Defendant Scott knew of concerning child porn usage at the Washington, D.C. Bureau of FNC, which Defendants Scott and FNC covered up."

What Klayman is presumably referring to is a 2009 incident when a Fox News producer pleaded guilty to child pornography charges after authorities searched the computer at his home. A Fox News spokesperson says Scott had no knowledge of the incident, was not in high-level management in 2009 and had no oversight of the Washington bureau.

"Larry Klayman's latest lawsuit is utterly frivolous and entirely without merit or credibility," a Fox News spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter. Klayman wasn't available for comment.

Luhn spent nearly 15 years at Fox News, joining the network in 1996 as a guest-relations staffer for Fox News Sunday With Tony Snow and rising to director of booking for the entire channel, then senior director of corporate and special events. She claims Ailes "coerced, extorted, blackmailed and forced sexual favors from her," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says she "was forced to purchase black garters and stockings to wear for Ailes" and to report "anything she had heard or seen that he would find useful." She also said that Ailes repeatedly told her: "I own you."

Klayman identifies himself as a "proud conservative" who has appeared on Fox News many times, most notably after the group he founded, Judicial Watch, sued President Bill Clinton more than a dozen times in the late 1990s.

More recently, Klayman has filed lawsuits against Sacha Baron Cohen over the entertainer's treatment of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore; against CNN and Rolling Stone on behalf of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio; and against Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple for alleged "illegal suppression" of conservative media.

April 24, 3:28 p.m. Updated to include mention of the 2009 guilty plea of a producer in the D.C. Fox News bureau.