The line between what constitutes a fair, though biased, retelling of history and protecting the reputations of those being portrayed is always being tried and tested, both in legal courts and in the court of public opinion. In most cases, the opinions derived by people are a mixture of pop culture “truth” and actual reality, which is often both more visceral and less linear than good storytelling requires.
All of these elements are brought into even starker focus when the history being retold is recent history, and the players are still alive and willing to push back against a narrative, they believe, is unfair or unkind to them and their public persona. Take the case of former Fox News employee Laurie Luhn, who is currently threatening to sue cable network Showtime over a not-yet-aired miniseries ostensibly detailing the life of former Fox CEO Roger Ailes.
According to documents and statements from Luhn’s representation, Larry Klayman, the Showtime program portrays Luhn as “Ailes’ pimp.” The deceased former Fox News CEO is, to date, one of the most high-profile names associated with the MeToo movement.
Klayman said, via the Hollywood Reporter, that Luhn was not only not a “pimp” for Ailes, but that she was, in fact, one of his victims. At the time of his death, Ailes faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct levelled by current or former Fox employees.
Klayman drew a deep and distinct line in the sand for his client, arguing in print that she should not only be portrayed with more sympathy but also, in his perspective and hers, more accuracy. And their line in the sand didn’t stop there. Luhn should, Klayman argued, have been employed as a consultant by Showtime in order to achieve a “more accurate” portrayal of events depicted in the series. And, in his accusations, Klayman was careful and specific, naming at least one writer as a party who had aggrieved his client:
“There is a probability, given previous false and misleading representations from and by one of the principal writers Gabe Sherman, concerning Ms. Luhn, including but hardly limited to his writing that Ms. Luhn brought Mr. Ailes women (i.e. in effect was his pimp), and thus you and Showtime/CBS are on notice that its mini-series must not again defame my client…”
Media accounts say the miniseries is based on the book “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” in which Luhn is depicted as “sending her staff in for private meetings with (Ailes) where she knew they could be exposed to sexual harassment…”
By all accounts, that action of potentially exposing members of her staff to possible harassment appears a far cry from “pimping,” but that’s where the narrative is at the moment, a modern lesson in just how quickly these things can escalate when reputations are on the line. Showtime has yet to respond to either the legal threat or the comments by Luhn’s attorney.