SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – A flight attendant who worked on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s private jet demands $10 million from Gawker Media, the National Enquirer and the Daily Mail, claiming they defamed her in articles that claimed she had a “love-child” with the Governator.
Schwarzenegger is not a party to the complaint.
Tammy Tousignant says she worked as a flight attendant for Schwarzenegger from 1987 to 1999, and was surprised when the National Enquirer and Daily Mail published the allegedly defamatory articles during Schwarzenegger’s run for governor in 2003.
She says the National Enquirer started the mess by running an article in September 2003 and October 2003 under the headline, “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Love Child Scandal.”
Tousignant says that the article reported – falsely – that she had told friends that Schwarzenegger was the father of her first son, then 11 years old; that the father’s name had been left blank on his birth certificate, and that Maria Shriver had heard about the affair and got Tousignant fired.
“The article also included a statement that reporter Wendy Leigh investigated the love child story for the London paper The Daily Mail and falsely stated that ‘it’s right on,'” according to the complaint in Orange County Court.
The Daily Mail article was published on Oct. 4, 2003, under the headline “Dark Side of Arnie.”
The “Dark Side of Arnie” article reported that Tousignant had an affair with Schwarzenegger, that she had separated from her husband Tom, a pilot, and that she “routinely boasted that ‘her baby was Arnold’s,'” according to the complaint.
“In response to the false allegations contained in the Daily Mail and the Enquirer articles, Tammy voluntarily submitted to a polygraph test which confirmed that she was never involved in a sexual relationship of any kind with Schwarzenegger. Furthermore, Tammy, Tom and Tanner all submitted to genetic testing which confirmed that Tom – and not Schwarzenegger – was Tanner’s biological father,” the complaint states.
The Tousignants say they produced a copy of their child’s birth certificate, which listed Tom Tousignant as his father.
The Tousignants say they asked both papers to retract and correct their stories.
“In response, the ‘Enquirer’ first claimed that a retraction was not warranted before removing the postings on or about October 8, 2003,” the complaint states.
The Tousignants say Gawker put them through the wringer in May 2011 after the Los Angeles Times reported that Schwarzenegger had admitted fathering a child with a former member of his household staff.
“While the staff member was not identified by name, she was described as having worked for the family for 20 years, retiring in January 2011,” the complaint states.
It continues: “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 falsely reported that Tammy Tousignant was the ‘longtime member of [Schwarzeneggers’] household staff’ referred to in the Los Angeles Times article and that Tanner Tousignant was the illegitimate ‘love child’ of Schwarzenegger mentioned in that same article. Gawker posted photographs of Tammy and Tanner (pulled from his high school yearbook) next to the bold headline: ‘DADDY?'” (Parentheses in complaint.)
Tousignant says the Gawker article repeated the false rumors of 2003; claimed that in 2003 the Los Angeles Times looked into “the Tousignant love-child story, but sat on it;” claimed that the Times’ 2011 articles were about Tousignant; and that Gawker updated its article by claiming that Tanner Tousignant was one of two illegitimate children fathered by Schwarzenegger.
Gawker also refused to retract and correct the statements, the Tousignants say.
They say it did not write a retraction until the Los Angeles Times ran an article under the headline, “Schwarzenegger child: How Gawker named the wrong ‘baby mama,'” which pointed out the many ways “Gawker” had gotten the story wrong.
In Gawker’s retraction it admitted some mistakes, but claimed: “We haven’t seen the results of the [paternity] test, and we have no idea who is right: Tousignant or Wendy Leigh. But in light of the fact that we mistakenly identified Tousignant as the subject of the Los Angeles Times story … we have decided to err on the side of caution and take the post down,” according to the complaint.
The Daily Mail chimed in again in May 2011, repeating its defamatory and invasive statements, claiming that the Tousignants’ paternity test “did not specify which of her two sons took the test,” according to the complaint.
Tousignant says publications worldwide have republished the false rumors from Gawker and the Daily Mail, including photographs of her family.
“In addition,” she says, “news crews and paparazzi converged on the Tousignants quiet Brea neighborhood. 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.”
The Tousignants sued Gawker Media, Gawker, American Media, National Enquirer, National Enquirer Magazine, Associated Newspapers, Daily Mail, and Mail Online, alleging defamation by libel, false light invasion of privacy, and misappropriation of their image and likeness.
They want actual and compensatory damages of $10 million, plus punitive damages. They are represented by Todd Nevall with Scolinos, Sheldon & Nevell.