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Former Fox News employee Laura Luhn filed a bombshell lawsuit against her former employer on Wednesday, alleging she was subjected to decades of sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of the network’s late longtime CEO Roger Ailes.
The former director of booking at Fox claims management at the network and its parent company Twenty-First Century Fox allowed the disgraced CEO to abuse her. The suit claims former Fox executive Bill Shine, described as “Ailes’s hatchet man,” enabled the behavior. Shine was Donald Trump’s one-time White House deputy chief of staff and is also being sued by Luhn.
Soon after she began working for Ailes at his communications firm in 1991, Luhn suffered “a nightmare of sexual abuse” at Ailes’ hands, her suit claims. It alleges the pugnacious media executive, who advised Republican presidents from Richard Nixon to Trump, took videos of her performing coerced sex acts that he kept in a safe-deposit box and used as blackmail.
The lawsuit describes one disturbing incident early into Luhn’s working relationship with Ailes, when he allegedly forced her on her knees and pressed his hands to her temples and threatened her into performing oral sex.
“If I tell you to put on your uniform, what are you gonna do, Laurie? [yelling] WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO, LAURIE? [whispering] What are you, Laurie? Are you Roger’s whore? Are you Roger’s spy? Come over here,” Ailes is quoted as saying in legal papers.
Luhn’s suit, which demands unspecified damages and lists five causes of action, claims when Ailes recruited her to help launch the Fox News channel in 1996, the abuse became “repeated and habitual.”
“Luhn had hoped to have a fresh start and an opportunity to build a career learning from one of America’s news industry giants,” the lawsuit reads. “When the abuse continued, she was devastated.”
The 62-year-old’s employment discrimination and sexual abuse lawsuit cites 18 instances of the executive forcing himself on her in hotel rooms. Among the alleged encounters were a time he made her perform oral sex inside his second-floor office at News Corp. on Sixth Ave., and five times when he made her engage in “sadomasochistic sex,” which could turn violent, with him and other women.
Luhn said Ailes filmed everything and made it clear that the forced sex acts were “a quid pro quo” for her career advancement.
Ailes “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,” adds the suit, describing how Ailes referred to the blackmail material as his “insurance policy” and promised “severe personal humiliation and career ruin” if she ever spoke out.
Luhn said Fox was well aware of Ailes’ abuse and that of other executives, but that women who complained were fired. Her lawsuit quotes management excusing such behavior by claiming, “He’s just going through a rough time,” or saying, “Boys will be boys.” She alleges Shine “took it upon himself” to control her personal life and medical care and forced her to sign paperwork to ensure her silence. He resigned in 2017 amid backlash over his handling of sexual misconduct scandals.
Reached for comment, a Fox spokeswoman said, “This matter was settled years ago, dismissed in subsequent litigation and is meritless.”
The Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit was brought under New York’s Adult Survivors Act. The legislation passed in November lifted the statute of limitations for sexual assault victims for one year, allowing them to sue their alleged abusers regardless of when the incident occurred.
“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,” said Luhn’s lawyer, Barbara Whiten Balliette.
Luhn first went public with allegations against Ailes in a July 2016 New York Magazine interview after he resigned amid a sexual harassment suit from former anchor Gretchen Carlson. Ailes parted ways with the network with a $40 million golden parachute and died in an accidental fall in May 2017.
Carlson’s lawsuit, which she settled for $20 million, created a domino effect, with at least 20 women alleging Ailes sexually harassed them. They include former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly. Ailes denied all the allegations.
A cascade of similar accusations against ex-Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly soon followed. He left in August 2017 with a $25 million payout.
Lawyers for Shine and Twenty-First Century Fox did not return the Daily News’s calls seeking comment.