After former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox executive Roger Ailes and multiple women have come forward with similar stories, one woman has shared an incredibly detailed and disturbing account of what she says was 20 years of emotional abuse and sexual coercion from Ailes.
Speaking with New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, Laurie Luhn, who previously worked as director of booking at Fox News, recounted Ailes explicitly demanding sex from her in exchange for career advancement and mentorship over the course of two decades. She also described Ailes getting her to arrange meetings with young female Fox staffers in which she knew they would likely be exposed to sexual harassment.
Are you Roger’s whore? Are you Roger’s spy?
Luhn said that after realizing the candidate she was working for at the time was going to lose, she called Ailes for career help in the fall of 1990. He asked her if she wanted to meet him for an interview while he was in Washington, D.C., and afterward he took her to dinner and then asked her for a ride to the airport. Once they arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, she said, “We pull up and I say, ‘Thank you so much for dinner.’ He leans over and slips me the tongue and kisses me, and hands me a wad of cash. ‘Here’s to help you pay some bills,’ he said. It was maybe $200 or $300.” Later, Ailes offered to put her on a $500 monthly retainer to do “research” for him.
The first sexual encounter came in January of 1991, when after they had met for dinner he asked her to meet him later at a hotel where he had a suite. As Sherman writes, “By this point, Luhn understood what Ailes expected of her, but she went with him anyway.” She said Ailes had instructed her to buy a black garter and stockings, which he called her “uniform,” and when she got to the hotel room wearing them he told her, “Dance for me… Laurie, if you’re gonna be my girl, my eyes and ears, if you are going to be someone I can depend on in Washington, my spy, come on, dance for me,” taking a video of her dancing. http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2016/07/07/3796372/strong-gretchen-carlsons-case-roger-ailes-fox-legal-expert-breaks/ After she finished dancing, she said Ailes told her to get on her knees in front of him while he told her, “Tell me you will do what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it. At any time, at any place when I call. No matter where I call you, no matter where you are. Do you understand? You will follow orders. If I tell you to put on your uniform, what are you gonna do, Laurie? WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO, LAURIE?” and then, “What are you, Laurie? Are you Roger’s whore? Are you Roger’s spy?” He then asked her to perform oral sex, she said. He told her at the end of the encounter that he was going to put the video of her dancing “in a safe-deposit box just so we understand each other.”
After that, Luhn said their sexual encounters in hotels became a regular occurrence. She eventually followed him to Fox News, where he got her a job. (Many victims of sexual harassment continue to work with their abusers because they fear retaliation for speaking up and are trying to further their own careers.) Once there, Ailes developed a system of having executive Bill Shine call Luhn to a “booking meeting” in New York where they would have sex in hotel rooms and he would give her cash afterward, Luhn said. She also claimed that on three occasions Ailes demanded that she have sadomasochistic sex with another woman while he watched and took pictures.
You’re going to find me ‘Roger’s Angels.’ You’re going to find me whores.
The hotel meetings stopped by 2006, Luhn said, but that’s when Ailes began asking her to recruit young women for him. “You’re going to find me ‘Roger’s Angels.’ You’re going to find me whores,” she told Sherman that Ailes had said to her many times. She was in a position to hire employees and she said the expectation was that she would hire attractive women to send his way. While she denied ever sending staff to meet Ailes for explicitly sexual encounters, she would send them to private meetings where she knew they could be sexually harassed by him. Sherman spoke to one woman who said she had been sent to a very meeting like this, after hours in Ailes’s office, in which he offered to mentor her and then made inappropriate comments such as “women who like shoes also like lingerie.” Ailes tried to hug her before she left the meeting.
“He’s a predator,” Luhn told Sherman.
Luhn also claims that many people at Fox News knew about what was going on between her and Ailes. “They all knew there was quid pro quo,” she said, and Sherman spoke with two former Fox employees who confirmed that people knew Ailes was having sex with Luhn.http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2016/07/25/3801619/trump-ailes-carlson/ Luhn said that the abuse she endured led to a series of mental breakdowns in more recent years, one of which ended up with a year of hospitalization. In late 2010 or early 2011, Luhn said she wrote a letter to Fox’s lawyer saying that she had been sexually harassed by Ailes for 20 years. While the lawyer denies getting the letter, a source said she asked Ailes about the allegations. Then in June 2011, Luhn and the lawyer signed a $3.15 million settlement with “extensive nondisclosure provisions,” Sherman writes after having seen the documents, barring her from speaking to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, FBI, or the press. Yet Luhn said she decided to speak out because, “The truth shall set you free. Nothing else matters.”
This week, Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post asked Carlson what she felt when she learned about Ailes’s ouster in an interview about the lawsuit. “At first, satisfaction — or no, I think validation… I felt angry that it took so long,” she said. “It’s complicated — there was relief that now I would be believed — and I was happy to a certain extent over that.”
If Luhn’s account shows what career rewards may have been heaped on those who gave into Ailes’s demands, Carlson says her experience shows what happens when women refused. She said she was punished both for speaking out about the harassment and “not succumbing” to his sexual demands, her lawyer said. “We know that would have changed things.”
And Carlson expressed gratitude for the women who have come forward, many of whom say they have called her lawyer to share their stories. “I thought I would be fighting this all by myself,” she said.