Laurie Luhn worked for Roger Ailes, the former chairman and CEO of Fox News, for more than two decades and she says for much of that time, she was harassed, intimidated and pressured by him into performing sexual favors.
“I went through such hell for so many years. I finally felt safe when… I saw that other women were speaking up,” Luhn told ABC News “20/20.”
Luhn first spoke to New York Magazine about her explosive allegations, and is now sitting down with ABC News for her first television interview.
Luhn said she was stunned when she heard about Gretchen Carlson filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, who stepped down after an internal investigation revealed additional employees with similar accusations. 21st Century Fox Corporation settled with Carlson for $20 million and issued a public apology.
“I didn't realize the extent to which Roger really was a predator,” Luhn said.
Luhn said she was a naïve 28-year-old working in a low-level job on former President George H. W. Bush’s first presidential campaign when she first met Ailes. He was already a powerful Republican media consultant at the time and Luhn saw meeting him as a career opportunity.
“I wanted to work for him,” she said. “I was so excited. I introduced myself to him on the elevator, and then I think later on he ran into me in the hall was super friendly and had acted like he'd remembered me. And I was flattered.”
After the Bush campaign ended, Luhn said she was desperate for a job and Ailes invited her for an interview with his firm. At the meeting, she said, he asked her questions that felt more personal than professional.
“I think that he wanted to gauge what kind of a person I was, if I was insecure. If I was looking for a daddy figure,” she said. “And I was real insecure. And I was in need of a job."
Luhn said Ailes offered her work on a freelance basis doing research, but that it became clear that he was interested in more than just her work. One night Ailes was in Washington D.C., advising President Bush on a televised speech. Luhn says he asked her to watch the speech and then come to his hotel room to share her feedback but once there, she says the conversation took an unexpected turn.
Luhn said that Ailes told her she “needed training.” She didn’t know what that meant, but “I was about to find out,” she said.
Luhn said Ailes told her to strip down to her lingerie and dance for him. Feeling intimidated and worried for her job, she said she did as she was told.
“He would have me get down on my knees and tell me, ‘You know what you are, Laurie. You're my whore. You're my sex slave. You're going to do whatever I tell you to do at any time. Do you understand that?’” Luhn said. “And he explained that it was like the military, that if he gave an order I was to follow through.”
Luhn said Ailes then instructed her to perform oral sex and she was too stunned to refuse.
“I didn't question it,” she said. “And that was his big thing, ‘Just don't ever question anything I ever ask you to do, Laurie. You understand?’”
“He always let me know he was in control, and it was scary,” Luhn continued. “It was like the minute it happened I knew that I'd been blackmailed… because he did take photographs of me. And he would say, ‘This is just my little insurance policy. And I'm just going to put it in a safe deposit box just to make sure you stay loyal to me.’”
Luhn said that bizarre night became a pattern that continued off and on for more than 20 years.
“He'd say, ‘I think you need some training. I think you're slipping up.’ Or, ‘You haven't had your training lately,’” Luhn said, adding that she understood “training” to mean, “Show up in a hotel room wearing lingerie and be expected to perform oral sex.”
When Ailes launched Fox News in 1996, Luhn accepted a job there as a production assistant at Fox News Sunday but she said her secret meetings with Ailes were beginning to feel like psychological torture.
“I was threatened for many years not to ever discuss any of it with anyone… so I never told a living soul,” Luhn said. “He reinforced with me how great he was. And he'd say, ‘I'm your only friend. I'm the only person in the world that you can trust. You can't trust anyone else." So you say that enough times to someone and it's reality.”
Luhn says at Fox News her silence and loyalty were rewarded with career advancement. She was eventually named director of booking for all of Fox News with a six-figure salary.
“I got a promotion. A big promotion,” she said. “And afterwards I went in to see Roger, he said, ‘So, see, I told you I'd take care of you some day. Now, you go put your uniform on and show me some gratitude.”
Luhn said she knew the gratitude he was looking for was “sexual gratitude.”
“I was so excited. And then the next words were, ‘Go over to Double Tree and thank me,’” she said. “I kept on thinking it would end. You know, maybe he'd stop. And I actually didn't think that it would go on at Fox, but it did continue.”
One night in the summer 2005, Luhn said, “He had me meet in a hotel room, and he brought another woman with him. I was supposed to get in bed with this woman and he was taking pictures… It was pretty rough.”
Luhn said she went along with it because she was “ordered to.”
“Not only ordered to, expected to, and show up, and then say, ‘That was really great, wasn't it?’” she said. “And, you know, I'm trembling. And practically getting sick. And yes, I mean, it was horrible.”
Luhn said she kept going along with it because she felt like she didn’t have any other choice.
“It's not like I was able to go and consult or cry on the shoulder of some friend. I was completely isolated. I was isolated in the workplace,” she said. “Have you ever seen Roger Ailes when he's unhappy? It's not a good sight to see. It's pretty scary.”
Luhn said her life began to unravel in 2007 when she was removed from her high-level booking job because of talk in the company about her relationship with Ailes.
“My boss... sent me to a psychiatrist. And finally, for the first time in over 20 years, I spoke up. And it all kind of came pouring out,” she said.
She said the gravity of that admission triggered a full-fledged nervous breakdown and she landed in the hospital. That’s when she said she knew it was time to stand up for herself.
“I wrote a letter to the legal counsel at Fox News,” she said. “I just said that I'd been harassed the whole time I'd been at Fox and that I'd done my job… and I received no response.”
Luhn hired a lawyer and within weeks, without filing a lawsuit, she said she received a separation agreement from Fox worth over $3 million. She also signed a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from ever discussing her allegations against Ailes. But that hasn't stopped Luhn from speaking out now.
Roger Ailes sent ABC News the following statement, which reads in part: “Ms. Luhn is someone I once regarded as a friend and a person who I helped for many years. The stories she is telling now are fabrications built on half-truths and outright lies, and I can only assume are opportunistically intended to thrust her back into the limelight at my expense.”
Luhn responded, “He knew that it was the truth. I wasn’t lying.”