In a lengthy series of interviews with New York’s Gabriel Sherman, former Fox News event planner Laurie Luhn said that Roger Ailes, the network’s recently fired CEO, harassed her for over 20 years. “It was psychological torture,” Luhn said. In addition to the decades of sexual harassment, the piece alleges that in exchange for her $250,000 a year salary, she “[lured] young female Fox employees into one-on-one situations with Ailes that Luhn knew could result in harassment.”
Luhn recounts a long coercive relationship with Ailes that began in 1990. She told New York that she “danced” for Ailes, who recorded her on video, and engaged in a sexual relationship with him:
He asked her to buy a boom box so she could bring music to dance to. Ailes always left cash for her. A couple of times, while he was advising French politician Jacques Chirac, he gave her francs. “I remember I had to go exchange the money,” Luhn said.
In 1996, Ailes hired Luhn as Fox News was launching. In the interview, she said that despite having a good job, she accepted Ailes’ offer because she was “programmed.” In addition, she acknowledged that the job offer was appealing:
“I loved booking. I loved building the contacts and making sure that those guests were going to love the experience they would have at Fox News, that they would want to come back.”
Luhn said that shortly after her hiring at Fox, her relationship with Ailes resumed. She would travel from the Washington, DC bureau where she was based, and the pair would meet at hotels, generally a DoubleTree in Times Square, and after the encounter, Ailes would pay her. Luhn said that her relationship with Ailes was well-known at Fox, “They all knew there was quid pro quo,” she said. Fox employees confirmed that Luhn was known as a FOR or “friend of Roger.”
According to Luhn, Ailes became more and more demanding. Around 2004, he promoted Luhn and she relocated to the New York office (her relationship with Ailes was a source of tension between her and Fox’s DC bureau chief):
On three occasions, twice at the Renaissance and once at the Omni Berkshire, she said, Ailes demanded that she engage in sadomasochistic sex with another woman while he watched. The final such session occurred in the summer of 2005, Luhn recalled. Ailes snapped pictures. Afterward, he left $1,000 on the dresser and invited the two women to a party at Elaine’s on the Upper East Side, Luhn said. “I remember him being there holding court.”
By 2006, her relationship with Ailes had practically ended. It was then that Luhn alleges that he instructed her to recruit young women. She said that she purposefully sent young, female employees into situations where she knew they would be sexually harassed by Ailes. Luhn eventually left the network in 2010. She later settled a sexual harassment suit for $3.15 million and signed a nondisclosure agreement.
Though Sherman acknowledges that Luhn might be an “unreliable narrator”—she suffers from bouts of paranoia—she is aware of that. Still, her story (which should be read in full, and is arguably the most horrifying heard thus far) reveals an increasingly clear narrative about the corporate culture at Fox News and around Roger Ailes. It was only three weeks ago that former anchor Gretchen Carlson accused the now-fired Ailes of sexual harassment; since her lawsuit became public, numerous women who had worked with Ailes have come forward with similar allegations.