Former Fox News senior director of corporate and special events Laura Luhn is suing the network, its parent company (then known as 21st Century Fox) and former co-president Bill Shine, over decades of alleged abuse.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit is being filed under New York State’s recently passed Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on certain sexual harassment claims.
Filed in New York Supreme Court, Luhn’s lawsuit claims then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes abused her and attempted to blackmail her with sexually explicit videos. Luhn claims Ailes, who died in 2017, used his position as chief executive to trap her in a “decades-long cycle of sexual abuse.”
“Ailes’s abuse of Luhn was among the worst he inflicted on his many victims,” the lawsuit says. “At their very first encounter, Ailes set the stage by blackmailing Luhn and taking videos of her performing coerced sex acts. He physically forced Luhn to perform oral sex on him regularly. And he constantly reminded Luhn that he ‘owned’ her, that she was his ‘sex slave,’ and that she was forbidden from telling anyone about the abuse or he would make her pay dearly.”
The suit further claims, “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.”
Luhn claims that the years of abuse led her to a mental breakdown and that Shine “took it upon himself” to control her “personal life, manage her medical care, and ensure her public silence about the sexual abuse.” That included her signing a release of her claims.
Luhn left Fox News in 2011.
“He’s a predator,” she told NY Magazine‘s Gabe Sherman in a series of interviews conducted not longer after Ailes’ 2016 exit, which came after several women, most notably Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Luhn first met Ailes in 1988 and went on to spend 15 years at Fox News, joining in 1996 as a guest relations staffer. She rose to segment producer on Fox News Sunday, a booker for Special Report with Brit Hume, then manager of booking for the D.C. bureau before being named director of booking in 2006. Luhn was named senior director of corporate and special events in 2007 and exited the company four years later with a $3.15 million severance, Sherman reported.
As for Shine, he resigned in May 2017 after allegations surfaced that he covered up Ailes’ behavior. He later got a job as Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications and later had a brief stint as a consultant for burgeoning national cable news network NewsNation.
“This matter was settled years ago, dismissed in subsequent litigation, and is meritless,” Fox News said in a statement.