A Florida man is suing the estate of Roger Ailes, Fox News, and former co-president of Fox News Bill Shine for outing him as gay during a legal battle over a reality show.
According to court documents obtained by The Blast, Silas Pierce was scheduled to star in a reality show produced by Leftfield Pictures (also a defendant in this case) that was supposed to appear on the Fox Business Channel.
Pierce and his family (more on them later) run an estate sales business in Maitland, Florida. Pierce says Leftfield shot a "sizzle reel" for a show about his business which was well-received by Fox News. He then claims he signed a deal with Leftfield for $5,000/episode and they eventually shot 17 episodes.
But Pierce claims the deal between Fox News and Leftfield eventually fell apart and the show never aired.
Pierce says he was never paid for the show and Leftfield sued Fox News for failing to pay for the episodes that were delivered. The two sides eventually settled.
But in the course of the lawsuit, Pierce claims that Ailes, Fox News and Shine began a scheme to "discredit and vilify" Pierce in an effort to bolster their settlement position with Leftfield.
Pierce claims as part of the scheme — coordinated and orchestrated by Ailes and carried out by Shine — Fox News requested that Leftfield "obtain and provide to them personal and private facts regarding Pierce and his family, including facts regarding Pierce’s sexual orientation and the legal relationship between Pierce and his sons."
Leftfield provided the information to Fox News, Pierce claims, and then Fox News published those private facts as part of their counter-suit against Leftfield. He also claims Ailes and Shine dispatched lawyers and investigators to Florida to "dig up damaging information" about him and his business, often harassing and badgering his neighbors, friends, family and current and former customers of his business.
Pierce also claims that Shine, at the direction of Ailes, used "sock puppet" media outlets to run stories critical of Pierce and Leftfield and to disclose the private facts about Pierce.
A "sock puppet" website, according to the lawsuit, is a third-party media outlet that is controlled by Fox News, Ailes or Shine, but claims to be unrelated to them. Fox News was accused of a similar practice by Andrea Tantaros as part of her lawsuit against the network.
Pierce believes that by outing him, Ailes opened him up to the risk of physical harm and violence by others. He claims to have suffered economic damages, lost profits, legal expenses, loss of business and consequential and incidental damages … along with mental distress, anxiety, depression, and damage to his reputation, both personal and professional.
According to a letter from Pierce's mother, his "sons" are actually his younger, adopted siblings. When Pierce's parents became too ill to care for the children, Pierce assumed the role as the parent and took on legal guardianship over some of the children.
During the course of their lawsuit with Leftfield, Fox News said they abandoned the reality show in part because they claimed Leftfield committed fraud by omission when they failed to inform them of the true nature of Pierce's relationship with his family.
But in a filing objecting to three of Fox's attorneys joining the case, Pierce's legal team claims something more sinister:
Upon information and belief, feeling that a Show revolving around a gay man and his non-traditional family did not fit with Fox’s branding and meticulously-controlled corporate image, Ailes personally ordered development of the Show halted and the Show be "killed."
Pierce is suing the Ailes estate, Fox News Network, Shine and Leftfield for publication of private facts, tortious interference with a business relationship and breach of contract. He is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.
Fox News, Ailes and Shine all have filed responses denying all allegations. They claim the case should fall under New York law, which does not recognize a cause of action for invasion of privacy for publication of private facts. They also claim Pierce's contract for the show says that "others may reveal . . . private" or "intimate information" and Fox News had a right to "use such information."
They are seeking to have the case dismissed.