The latest reporting on Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment is so stunning and filled with such lurid sexual particulars that it would be easy to lose sight of its more important but less prurient details: that a number of top-level Fox executives at the very least aided and abetted keeping a disturbed employee on the payroll merely because she was a “friend of Roger.”
In his must-read article, New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman spoke with a woman named Laurie Luhn and corroborated her story of 20+ years of sexual harassment by Ailes. Unlike most of the other women who have come forward about Ailes’ sexual advances, Sherman noted, Luhn acceded to them.
The details are certainly salacious and sure to cause Ailes much embarrassment:
Luhn put on the black garter and stockings she said Ailes had instructed her to buy; he called it her uniform. Ailes sat on a couch. “Go over there. Dance for me,” she recalled him saying. She hesitated. “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,” he said, according to her account. When she started dancing, Ailes got out a video camera. Luhn didn’t want to be filmed, she said, but Ailes was insistent: “I am gonna need you to do better than that.”
When she had finished dancing, Ailes told her to get down on her knees in front of him, she said, and put his hands on her temples. As she recalled, he began speaking to her slowly and authoritatively, as if he were some kind of Svengali: “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?” Then, she recalled, his voice dropped to a whisper: “What are you, Laurie? Are you Roger’s whore? Are you Roger’s spy? Come over here.” Ailes asked her to perform oral sex, she said.
By 2006, Luhn said, Ailes was regularly demanding phone sex in the office, but the hotel visits had stopped. Instead, said Luhn, Ailes instructed her to recruit young women for him. “You’re going to find me ‘Roger’s Angels.’ You’re going to find me whores,” Luhn recalled Ailes saying on numerous occasions, urging her to send young Fox staffers his way. He had promoted Luhn to director of bookings, which gave her the authority to hire employees. She said she chose women Ailes would be attracted to. “You’re not expected to hire unattractive people,” she said.
If you can put those images aside, check out what Luhn’s story says about Bill Shine, currently in line to succeed Ailes. When, in 2004, Luhn told Ailes she thought Washington bureau chief Kim Hume (Brit Hume’s wife) suspected the truth, Luhn was told to report to Shine, instead. As Luhn’s mental condition worsened, she got promoted into fake jobs.
For the next 18 months, Luhn remained at Fox with few job responsibilities. In late 2010, she moved to California and rented an apartment in Brentwood, while remaining on the Fox News payroll. “She wanted to get away,” her father, George, told me. Alone in California, Luhn said she suffered a nervous breakdown. Fox executives tried to make contact with her. Luhn’s father told me that Bill Shine called him several times. “He wanted to know if I had talked to her,” he said. “They were trying to get hold of her.”
Fox corporate attorney Dianne Brandi is also implicated:
In late 2010 or early 2011, Luhn said, she wrote a letter to Fox lawyer Dianne Brandi saying she had been sexually harassed by Ailes for 20 years. Brandi did not acknowledge receipt of the letter, but, according to a source, she asked Ailes about the sexual-harassment allegations, which he vehemently denied. Ailes, according to the source, told Brandi to work out a settlement. Luhn hired an attorney to negotiate her exit from Fox.
On Sunday, Sherman stunned CNN host Brian Stelter by saying the following:
"Bill Shine, Dianne Brandi, FOX News’s general counsel, a lot of the senior executives around Roger Ailes, were fully aware of this culture. Let’s be very clear, they knew exactly what was going on, they did not speak up."
In that same discussion, Sherman also said,
"Another thing that I’m hearing is that Bill Shine, Roger Ailes’ deputy, played a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes accusers, and lead this counter-narrative to try to say, don’t believe Gretchen Carlson and the allegations. If that is indeed the case, that again—the Murdochs will have to say, this is a guy, these are managers who helped enable and tried to protect Roger Ailes who presided over this culture."
Bill Shine has reportedly already retained a lawyer.
Roger Ailes caricature by DonkeyHotey via Creative Commons license.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
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