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Fox News targeted in lawsuit by outed Florida businessman

Did the Fox Network purposefully expose the private sexual orientation of a Florida businessman, destroying his career, in order to get out of a deal to produce a reality-based television show?

A lawsuit filed in federal court says that’s exactly what happened.

The businessman, a 61-year-old Florida native is suing both Fox and it’s late owner, Roger Ailes. The amount he’s asking for in damages has yet to be specified. He claims that the network put his sex life into the public eye by exposing him in court. He claims that once the information became public, his business was ruined. He had successfully hid his relationships from his estate sales clients for years.

Fox had tapped him for its first planned reality show back in 2014. The network cancelled the idea after only filming a few episodes because of the background of a couple of the people involved.

In particular, Fox didn’t care for the fact that the businessman was a closeted gay man with relationships with several men he let the public believe were his adult sons.

The network has asked the court to toss out the lawsuit based on the idea that the businessman wasn’t honest about his relationship with the men. They claim it was not their fault that the information became public.

The widow of Roger Ailes has also asked that Ailes’ estate be dropped from the suit based on the idea that Ailes had no direct hand in the events and no motivation to harm the businessman’s reputation. However, Ailes’ management style and aggressive reputation are both controversial — and he was often brutal about people who had “alternative” lifestyles.

While reality shows do fall apart for many reasons, attorneys for the businessman believe that their client was purposefully attacked and professionally damaged in order to essentially make him go away without any problems. His refusal to back down may have come as a shock to the network.

Lawsuits like this would fall under invasion of privacy torts — the public dissemination of private facts is a type of gratuitous action that can be considered intentional in court. The fact that the information destroyed his business could elevate the damages in the case significantly. Damages are usually fixed on both what a plaintiff has already lost and whatever he or she may lose in the future.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Fox News Network and Roger Ailes’ widow battle lawsuit in Orlando court,” Paul Brinkman, Feb. 20, 2018