Former Fox News employee Laurie Luhn is seeking $750 million in damages for how she anticipates being portrayed in Showtime's upcoming Roger Ailes mini-series.
The lawsuit, which was filed yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorney Larry Klayman (and published by Deadline), names as defendants Showtime, Blumhouse Productions, and Gabriel Sherman, whose book the series is based on. Klayman currently also represents Judge Roy Moore in a fraud case stemming from his appearance on Showtime's Sasha Baron Cohen-led series Who Is America?, as well as former sheriff Joe Arpaio in a defamation case against several media outlets.
Annabelle Wallis will play Luhn (inset) in the mini-series Jerrit Clark / Getty; Paul Morigi / WireImage; Popdust
Luhn worked at Fox News for almost 15 years, beginning at its very inception, and she was both one of Ailes' most valued employees and one of his most frequent victims. Luhn's assumption that the series will portray her as an enabler of Ailes' predatory behavior stems from the fact that it uses Sherman's 2014 book, The Loudest Voice in the Room, and a subsequent 2016 New York magazine article as sources—both of which pulled from 11 hours of audio of an interview with the writer that Luhn alleges she was "cruelly lured into." She also alleges that the article "contains several false, misleading, and defamatory statements and innuendos."
Fearful of how she would be portrayed, Luhn, via Klayman, reached out to production and offered to act as a consultant to ensure the accuracy of her parts of the story. (Luhn will be physically portrayed by Annabelle Wallis.) They say that the defendants "arrogantly refused" all attempts to resolve Luhn's complaints. The lawsuit also claims that Sherman never informed Luhn that her initial interviews may be used in other works and that he used her likeness and story without permission to "line his own pockets."
Crowe (left), on set as Ailes SHOWTIME
It is unclear how prominently Luhn will be featured in the series, which stars Russell Crowe as Ailes and Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson. Sherman interviewed over 600 people for his book, and the series, according to Showtime, will feature multiple points of view in its telling of the CEO's spectacular ousting from Fox News. Ailes resigned in disgrace amid a litany of sexual harassment accusations in 2016. He died one year later.
While Sherman, Showtime, and Blumhouse are the defendants of the case, Luhn and Klayman also implicate many other notable names. They allege that Ailes enlisted a network of his Fox News employees in his effort to conceal his inappropriate behavior and silence his victims with gaslighting and threats to their professions. Among those they claim to have covered for Ailes were current Fox News COO Suzanne Scott and Bill Shine, his former "top deputy." According to claims in the lawsuit, in 2011 Shine forced Luhn to move out of her Los Angeles home and convinced her she was unsafe (Luhn had a stalker in 2006, and had been forced to move from Washington). Ordering her to move into relative seclusion with her parents in Texas, Shine also made her see a psychiatrist who allegedly manipulated her into believing she was mentally unstable and threatened to admit her to a psychiatric facility. At the same time, rumors about Ailes' behavior were floating around media circles, and it had recently been revealed that he'd told his former employee, Judith Regan, to lie to federal investigators during an unrelated 2006 investigation. Shine's sequestering of Luhn was, according to Luhn and Klayman, an effort to keep Ailes' other misdeeds under wraps. Shine is the current deputy Chief of Staff of the White House communications department.
Crowe as AilesAol.com
Then, of course, there are the actions of Ailes himself. The 20-page filing details decades of sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of the extremely powerful political operative and media mogul. Luhn claims that she was often forced to "thank" her employer for promotions by performing oral sex. He made her wear a "uniform" of black stockings and garters and manipulated her into having sex with other women on multiple occasions. He also allegedly bragged about his ability to control her, convinced her that George Soros and Hillary Clinton were trying to kill her, and made her "spy" on other Fox employees and report to him who might not be loyal. He kept illicit photos as blackmail, and in turn he used other employees in his communications department to keep tabs on Luhn.
The large sum in damages sought by Luhn is "to punish and impress upon defendants the seriousness of their conduct and to deter similar conduct in the future." Without seeing a script, it's hard to determine how much merit the suit has. Yet with the revelation of the extent of Ailes' depravity, it's certainly a shame he's no longer around to be named in the case.
Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde.
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