Feb 22, 2023
A former Fox News employee filed a sexual abuse lawsuit in New York state court against the network, its parent company, and the network’s former president, Bill Shine. The complaint alleges the network was complicit in controlling her personal life and blames the abuse for the psychological and physical toll she has suffered since, according to a report from NPR.
“Former Fox News staffer Laura Luhn helped seal the late Roger Ailes’ reputation after his resignation as the network’s chairman in July 2016 when she publicly alleged that he had sexually abused her for two decades and blackmailed her into becoming his ‘sex slave,‘” NPR said.
Luhn’s sexual abuse lawsuit cites the New York Survivors Act, which passed last yar and took effect in November. The N.Y. Adult Survivors Act (ASA) gives any adult victim of sexual abuse or assault a one-year window to file a civil claim for financial compensation. The ASA lifts the statute of limitations on adult sex crimes, allowing all survivors to file civil claims for damages during the one-year period – from November 24, 2022 through November of 2023 – regardless of how long ago said crimes occurred.
Luhn reportedly worked at Fox News for 15 years as a talent booker. Her lawsuit alleges that Roger Ailes, the network’s late chief executive, used his position of authority “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. “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.”
Bill Shine, who is named in Luhn’s suit, left the network in 2017 and became White House communications director for then-President Donald Trump, according to NPR. “His departure was part of an ongoing purge of executives and stars amid a crush of sexual harassment allegations there.”
The sexual abuse civil complaint further states:
“Shine and many other executives knew of and enabled the abuse, which ultimately caused severe despair and devastation for Luhn… Any attempt to come forward with Ailes’ abuse would have been at best fruitless and at worst devastating to Luhn’s safety, career, financial situation, personal friendships, family relationships and public reputation.”
The former Fox News booker’s relationship with Ailes dated back to the early 1990s, before the network was launched, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In the complaint, Luhn alleges Ailes, who died in 2017, photographed and videotaped her in compromising positions for “blackmail material” that he described as his “insurance policy.”
Ailes allegedly “made clear to Luhn that any attempt to speak out or stop the abuse would result in ‘severe personal humiliation and career ruin,'” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The suit also alleges Fox News executives engaged in coordinated public smear campaigns against other victims of sexual abuse, the Times said.
“These cruel campaigns ensured the silence of other victims like Luhn,” the complaint says.
A Fox News Media representative issued the following statement in response to Luhn’s lawsuit:
“This matter was settled years ago, dismissed in subsequent litigation, and is meritless.”
Luhn reportedly received a $3.15-million settlement in 2011 after filing a sexual harassment complaint against Ailes. The settlement was paid over 12 years in annual instalments of $250,000, her last salary at the network, the Los Angeles Times said.
But the new sexual abuse lawsuit alleges the network withheld over 30% of the payment from the 2011 settlement for taxes, according to NBC News.
“Although this settlement was inadequate, Luhn’s dire financial situation (caused by her inability to work because of the trauma of the sexual assaults) combined with her oppressive fear of the Fox News machine and Shine’s continued control over her life forced her to capitulate,” the suit alleges.
Luhn filed a separate defamation lawsuit against Fox News which was not successful.
“Luhn lost a defamation suit against Fox News in 2018. She claimed that Fox News Media chief executive Suzanne Scott defamed her in a Los Angeles Times interview in which Scott said that even though she was part of Ailes’ inner circle, she had no knowledge of his behavior,” the Times reported.
The Times further reported that Luhn filed and then withdrew a $725-million lawsuit against Showtime Networks over her portrayal in the limited series “Loudest Voice in the Room,” based on the Fox News harassment story. “She claimed the series depicted her as an accomplice to Ailes, helping him set up private meetings with women he abused,” the Times said.
As of November 24, 2022, survivors of adult sexual assault have a limited one-year window to file claims against perpetrators – whether individuals or entities – regardless of how long ago the crimes occurred.
“To those who thought they got away with horrific crimes they committed, I just have one message: Your time is up. Your victims will see you in court and you will be brought to justice,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters in 2022 when the ASA was signed into law.
The Adult Survivors Act mirrors New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which opened a lookback window for childhood sexual abuse survivors in August 2019. The window closed in August 2021, with more than 10,600 New York child sexual abuse lawsuits being filed during that time, according to a CNN report.
The ASA was passed due to the CVA overlooking countless valid claims from adult survivors of sexual abuse and assault.
“It [CVA] forgot a lot of people,” Governor Hochul said during a bill-signing ceremony at the state Capitol. “What about the people who were adults when they experienced this trauma? We didn’t do enough to protect those individuals, until today.”
In 2019, New York extended the statute of limitations for adults filing civil claims for certain sex crimes to 20 years. The legislation, however, only applies to new cases, thereby barring most claims for crimes which occurred outside of the standard three-year statute of limitations for adult sexual assaults. The ASA is intended to offer adult sexual assault survivors whose incidents occurred outside of the normal statute of limitations a limited one-year window to file claims.
Contact Dordulian Law Group (DLG) today by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM for a free and confidential consultation regarding your sexual abuse or assault civil claim. DLG was founded by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and member of RAINN’s National Leadership Council.
Dordulian has been fighting for justice on behalf of survivors of sexual assault for more than 25 years, successfully securing over 100 jury trial victories and in excess of $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts for clients.
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