Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Just because she happened to work for the Sperminator doesn't mean she was actually his, um, target.
A woman who served as Arnold Schwarzenegger's longtime personal flight attendant is suing Gawker and several other tabloid publications for $40 million for falsely fingering her as the former California governor's mistress when news of his infidelity initially leaked out.
Talk about collateral damage.
In her lawsuit, filed July 28 in Orange County Superior Court, Tammy Tousignant alleges her good name and reputation were trashed after an error-filled May 17 story claimed she was "Arnold's lover" and her son Tanner was Schwarzenegger's illegitimate offspring.
She's demanding a minimum of $40 million in damages for libel, invasion of privacy and misappropriation of personal images.
Also named in the complaint are the National Enquirer and U.K.'s Daily Mail.
According to her Pasadena, Calif.-based attorney, Harry Frank Scolinos, Gawker falsely accused Tousignant of being the homewrecker who caused the breakup of Arnold's 25-year marriage to wife Maria Shriver.
The lawyer also said that his client was wronged as well in several 2003 reports about Schwarzenegger's personal life on the eve of his successful run for governor.
"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," said Scolinos in the suit.
"Given the nearly instantaneous and worldwide availability of online 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."
There's been no immediate comment from the publications or from Schwarzenegger.
Scolinos singled out Gawker's "exclusive" May report headlined "Is This Arnold Schwarzenegger's Love Child?" The story pictured Tousignant—a flight attendant on Arnold's private jet from 1987 to 1999—along with a yearbook photo of her son that suggested he "bears a physical resemblance to Arnold."
Tanner was born in 1992 to Tammy and her husband, Tom. (And because Tanner's younger brother is named Conner, there was additional tabloid speculation he was named after John Connor, a key character in Schwarzenegger's Terminator franchise).
These claims turned out to be false after the Los Angeles Times broke the news that Schwarzenegger fathered an out-of-wedlock child with a woman later identified as Mildred Baena, a housekeeper who worked for the power couple for years.
Gawker subsequently put out a retraction but the damage was already done, noted Scolinos.
"News crews and paparazzi converged on the Tousignants' quiet Brea neighborhood," the lawyer said. "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."
Perhaps a big check will make her feel a little better.