By now, news of ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's extramarital affair with a member of his household staff is as old as "hasta la vista." But in an increasingly more complicated situation, the media is being sued for defamation during the scandal's heyday back in May -- and it's not coming from ex-wife Maria or The Terminator.
Tammy Tousignant, who worked as Schwarzenegger's personal flight attendant from 1987-1999, is asking for $40 million in damages from a number of tabloids, among them National Enquirer, the U.K.'s Daily Mail and most damningly, Gawker -- which is being sued for $10 million alone. The lawsuit, filed July 28th by Tousignant and her lawyer, is the result of the damages suffered from libel, invasion of privacy and misappropriation of personal images used by the publications, starting in 2003 when the Daily Mail published an article claiming that Tousignant had mothered a love child with Schwarzenegger, a report that she denied.
Now the heat is on Gawker: the New York gossip website took wind of the infidelity rumors and resurfaced the Daily Mail story, then took it one step further -- securing images of Tousignant's 19-year-old son, Tanner, from his high school yearbook and suggesting the two might bear a resemblance. It later emerged that Schwarzenegger had conducted the affair with Mildred Patricia Baena -- maid and cook of the Schwarzenegger residence for more than 10 years. In the meantime, Gawker published a retraction.
The damages were significant, claims Tousignant's lawyer Harry Frank Scolinos in a 117-page brief, which holds all of the above sources responsible:
"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 and scorn in their own community. Their reputations have been permanently damaged."
Ironically, Gawker Media plans on filing its own lawsuit, a first for the company, against New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Fox News chairman Roger Ailes in an unrelated action.