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Former Fox News Employee Says She Was Sexually Harassed by Roger Ailes for More Than 20 Years

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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DISCUSSION

greengal
A tale told by an idiot

So I know this may come off wrong, but I ask this a very pro-woman, pro-legalized-prostitution, sex-positive female person who genuinely means well and knows she does not know the whole story...oh and Ailes is a detestable cancer of a man...

From the very first private meeting the two have, Ailes was giving Luhn hundreds of dollars at the same time he was sexually assaulting her, according to her description in the article. She seems to stress that she knew what was expected of her from the start, and she also stresses several times that throughout the whole time he gave her money after every encounter. Eventually, she was expected to act as a fixer by hiring other potential targets for Ailes, which she did as well, and was also paid. For much of the time throughout the years she also states she she held what were essentially fake positions.

I am curious about Jez’s thoughts re: I guess I don’t understand how this is not straight up prostitution. If she understood all these expectations from the start, which she states she does, why even start if you don’t want to? I understood all the difficulties of leaving abusive relationships, but this is something else - she went into it with eyes open, with no ties to this man, not even a shared place of work at first. She *left her job* to work for him *after* he had repeatedly assaulted her.

What I see is a woman, who does not want to see herself as a former prostitute. A prostitute who was successful in parlaying herself into a high paying position, eventually becoming a sort of ‘madam’ to unsuspecting women. It is likely she was not a prostitute before Ailes, but she took on that role and continued to move up in the organization by taking on that role more completely over time. Eventually, she may have realized that she did not like, and likely regretted her choices, but by then it may have been easier to continue with the arrangement. Maybe she saw, once she got to the top, that she didn’t deserve the horror that is Ailes, and she finally left. This account and the successive breakdowns could be heavily influenced by the regret of a former prostitute.

In the end, I keep going back to the fact that she keeps mentioning that she understood what was happening, paid at each encounter and beyond, and she already had a job as a non-prostitute that she chose to leave after this was made clear. That sounds like prostitution to me. Thoughts?

Also, does anyone have any progessively oriented info they can share about the nexus of sexual harassment and prostition (for any gender ID)? Specifically more complex type cases - I am fully aware prostitutes can be raped and assaulted.

Just to be clear, I am really thinking from a more semantic POV, and under no circumstances does that excuse what that slime ball has done.

(Be nice to me, I truly say this from my desire to learn and have a productive discussion)