A former Fox News employee who previously came forward with sickening accusations of sexual servitude against Roger Ailes is suing the network, its parent company, and a former producer who worked in the Trump White House.
Laura Luhn, who in 2021 told The Daily Beast that Fox’s lawyers were trying to intimidate her, filed her lawsuit Wednesday in New York state court, detailing the decades of sexual abuse and assault she says she suffered under the late Fox executive.
“Ailes’s abuse of Luhn was among the worst he inflicted on his many victims,” the complaint 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.”
Luhn’s complaint lists Fox News Network and Twenty-First Century Fox as defendants, along with William Shine, a Fox producer and executive who had a short-lived turn as former President Trump’s White House communications chief. The suit is among the latest to be filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which opened a one-year window for adult victims to file claims regardless of the statute of limitations. It’s resulted in new lawsuits against Jeffrey Epstein’s estate, billionaire Leon Black, Bill Cosby, and Trump.
According to Luhn’s filing, Ailes used his position of power to “trap” her “in a decades-long cycle of sexual abuse.” And to ensure her compliance, the complaint adds, “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.”
Barbara Whiten Balliette, an attorney for Luhn and partner at Reid Collins & Tsai LLP, told The Daily Beast in a statement: “The abuse that Ms. Luhn suffered was some of the worst imaginable. 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 suit alleges Fox News corporate higher-ups “knew of Ailes’s conduct (and similar conduct of Fox News’s on-air talent) yet did nothing to stop it.” Instead, the filing claims, executives embarked on public smear campaigns to intimidate victims like Luhn and bully them into silence. Luhn says she suffered a mental breakdown over the abuse, and that Shine was tasked with taking over her personal life and medical care and preventing her from speaking out.
As a result of Shine’s tactics, the complaint says, Luhn signed a “release” of her claims and received a severance equivalent to her wages until retirement.
“In the period when Ailes was abusing her, Luhn had a front-row seat to the very public intimidation campaign that Fox News waged against another victim after she lodged disturbing allegations against Fox News star, Bill O’Reilly. In private conversations with Luhn, Ailes explicitly reinforced the message that this public campaign was designed to convey to Luhn and other would-be accusers: come forward at your own peril,” the lawsuit states.
“Laurie, if you’re gonna be my girl, my eyes and ears, if you are going to be someone I can depend on in Washington, my spy, come on, dance for me.”
According to the lawsuit, Luhn began working at Fox News as a guest relations staffer when the network launched in 1996, rising to senior director of corporate and special events in 2007. She stayed in that role until mid-2011, the complaint says.
“Ailes should never have been in a position of power at Fox News or anywhere else,” the filing states. “His sexual misconduct did not begin at Fox; Ailes had been harassing women for years and pressuring them into engaging in nonconsensual sexual conduct by holding career opportunities over their heads since at least the early 1980s.”
Luhn says that Ailes “used his proximity to the political elite and the news media to take advantage of Luhn’s professional interest in those fields.” When they met in Washington, D.C., at George H.W. Bush’s campaign headquarters, Luhn was 28 and Ailes was close to 50; the lawsuit says she was eager to work with and learn from him.
Before hiring her at his firm Ailes Communications, the lawsuit says, Ailes “groomed Luhn by asking her deeply personal questions about her family and childhood at her very first job interview” in order to “manipulate her.” (The suit notes that Gretchen Carlson’s own complaint against Ailes in 2016 prompted other women to share similar “grooming” stories.)
In January 1991, a few months into Luhn’s job, Ailes allegedly called her to a Marriott hotel in Virginia for a meeting that would become the first episode of abuse.
“People knew, but no one at Fox News stepped in to stop it. Her career and her life were destroyed.”
“Ahead of the meeting, Ailes demanded that Luhn wear a black garter and stockings, calling it her ‘uniform,’ the lawsuit says. “When she arrived, Ailes told Luhn to dance for him. She was resistant. But this did not stop Ailes.
“His manipulation of her began immediately when he tied her compliance to her job security, saying, ‘Laurie, if you’re gonna be my girl, my eyes and ears, if you are going to be someone I can depend on in Washington, my spy, come on, dance for me.’”
Luhn says that she complied, as she was “feeling pressured by one of the most powerful men in the world and unsure of what to do.” Ailes allegedly videotaped her. After Ailes further threatened her, Luhn performed oral sex on him, the complaint says.
“Afterwards, Ailes showed Luhn the footage of her dancing,” the lawsuit continues. “When she asked him what he was going to do with it, he replied, ‘I am going to put it in a safe-deposit box just so we understand each other.’ He would go on to refer to this and other photos and videos of Luhn as his ‘insurance.’”
“From this moment on, Luhn believed that she had no choice but to do as Ailes commanded her, or risk losing her safety, her career, her reputation, and her personal relationships,” the filing alleges. “Luhn knew she was trapped.”
Ailes would later recruit Luhn to work at Fox, leading to “repeated and habitual” abuse at hotels in New York. “From time to time, I’m going to ask you to do things and I’m going to expect you to meet me and put on your uniform,” Ailes allegedly told her.
“Ailes already had compromising videos of Luhn,” the lawsuit alleges, “and his large presence and demeanor (he would yell and threaten Luhn if she stepped out of line), led Luhn to believe that failure to comply would result in disastrous consequences both for her career and her personal life.”
This is a developing story.