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.
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.
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' . . .”
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.
receiving legal threats from the Tousignant family, Gawker issued a May
2011 retraction admitting that their story was erroneous.
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
Tanner, for example, has been called Schwarzenegger's “bastard” child,” the lawyer says.
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
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.