Gabriel Sherman continues to reveal more and more lurid details about the ghastly environment that exists at Fox News that has come to light since the allegations made by Gretchen Carlson surfaced and that has resulted in the departure of its head Roger Ailes. It is far worse than one could have imagined.
The latest revelations by Laurie Luhn, a former director of booking, go well beyond individuals abusing their power to sexually harass lower-level employees. Fox is looking more and more like an organized sex-trade network that involved the active collusion of many people to keep the supply chain functioning, and then paying off people to keep them silent.
Doing so helped Luhn’s career for a time — at her peak, she earned $250,000 a year as an event planner at Fox while, according to both her own account and four confirming sources, enjoying Ailes’s protection within the company. But the arrangement required her to do many things she is now horrified by, including luring young female Fox employees into one-on-one situations with Ailes that Luhn knew could result in harassment. “He’s a predator,” she told me.
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.
Luhn denied ever setting Ailes up with her staff for explicitly sexual purposes, but she did send them in for private meetings with him where she knew they could be exposed to sexual harassment. One woman who worked for Luhn and spoke only on the condition of anonymity said that Luhn sent her to an after-hours meeting with Ailes in his office. According to this woman’s account, Ailes followed the same pattern he used with Luhn many years before: He asked her about her family and career goals and offered to mentor her — perhaps it would give him “energy.” Ailes also asked about the woman’s shoes, she told me, commenting that “women who like shoes also like lingerie.”
An interesting side issue is that Luhn left Fox with a $3.15 million settlement that included an extensive non-disclosure clause. Luhn is now violating that clause by talking to reporters and it is not clear whether Fox will go after her or decide that it will only make them look even worse, if that is possible.
One suspects that given the climate at Fox, other big names may also come to light soon. When there is so much rot at the top, you can be sure that the tree is infected all the way down.