Arnold Schwarzenegger's longtime personal flight attendant has filed a $40 million lawsuit that claims Gawker, the National Enquirer, the London Daily Mail and other news outlets libeled her in articles portraying her as the ex-California governor's mistress and one of her sons as his secret love child.
In the July 28 suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, Tammy Tousignant of Brea seeks damages for defamation by libel, invasion of privacy and misappropriation of personal images following a series of 2003 and 2011 articles that wrongly alleged she "was Arnold's lover" and that her son, Tanner, "was Arnold's."
Harry Frank Scolinos, Tousignant's Pasadena-based lawyer, slammed the publications in his 117-page brief, which includes copies of the offending articles.
"Freedom of the press is a valuable right, but it is not a license for gossipy tabloids to tar and feather innocent citizens and destroy their reputations for the rags' profit," wrote Scolinos. "Given the nearly instantaneous and worldwide availability of on-line and print articles, one would expect more rigorous standards to be imposed on those who report news, particularly where such 'news' involves disclosing very personal and private details of the lives of non-public figures."
According to the lawsuit, Tanner--a graduate of Brea Olinda High School--is the August 1992 offspring of Tammy and her husband Tom. The couple--married since 1992--have another son, Conner, who was born in July 1997. Tammy worked as Schwarzenegger's flight attendant on the wealthy Hollywood actor's private jet from 1987 to 1999.
Articles in 2003 claimed that "not only was there an affair between Arnold and Tammy but that Tammy claimed that her son was fathered by Arnold," that Tanner "bears a physical resemblance to Arnold," and that the boy is "Arnold's love child."
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that Schwarzenegger had privately admitted that he cheated on his wife, Maria Shriver, with "a former household staff member more than a decade ago" and had a child, who was not identified.
Claims Scolinos, "Thereafter, ignoring the obvious differences between Tammy Tousignant and the description of the mother of the so-called 'love child' in the Los Angeles Times article, on May 17, 2011, the gossip website Gawker ran an "Exclusive" article by John Cook under the heading 'Is This Arnold Schwarzenegger's Love Child?' in which it was falsely reported that Tammy Tousignant was the 'longtime member of [Schwarzeneggers'] household staff referred to . . . and that Tanner Tousignant was the illegitimate 'love child' . . ."
The lawyer also said that Gawker "posted photographs of Tammy and Tanner (pulled from his high school yearbook) next to the bold headline: 'Daddy?'"
Articles also speculated that it was "odd" that Tanner's younger brother's name is Conner. In the Terminator film series, Schwarzenegger's character is sent back in time to save the life of a character named Conner.
Eventually, Mildred Patricia Baena--a longtime Schwarzenegger maid and cook--admitted that she and the actor had a child together. Shriver moved out and filed for divorce from the disgraced ex-governor.
After receiving legal threats from the Tousignant family, Gawker issued a May 2011 retraction admitting that their story was erroneous.
Capturing unwanted international media attention based on "outrageous" and "destructive" accusations severely impacted the Tousignants, according to the lawsuit.
"News crews and paparazzi converged on the Tousignants' quiet Brea neighborhood," Scolinos asserts. "They were inundated with phone calls and messages. They were forced to flee their house and stay at another location. Tanner was followed. Their online accounts were hacked into. They were and continue to be the subject of scorn and scrutiny in their own community. Their reputations have been permanently damaged."
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Tanner, for example, has been called Schwarzenegger's "bastard" child," the lawyer says.
To teach the offending media organizations a lesson, Scolinos says a future Orange County jury should award the family substantial punitive damages of not less than $40 million.
The case, which cost $395 to file, has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Linda S. Marks.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly