CHICAGO (CN) – A former flight attendant on Oprah Winfrey’s private jet says she was fired unfairly for false allegations she had “inappropriate intimate conduct” with a pilot during a flight. Corrine Gehrls sued Winfrey’s company Harpo Inc., and another flight attendant and Winfrey’s goddaughter, whom she says concocted the false story.
Gehrls, 39, claims she and pilot Terry Pansing were fired in July because of a false story concocted by flight attendant Myron Gooch and Winfrey’s goddaughter Kirby Bumpus.
Bumpus is the daughter of Gayle King, according to the complaint, which describes King as “a close personal associate” of Winfrey’s and the “editor at large” of Winfrey’s O Magazine.
Bumpus and Gooch allegedly told Oprah that Gehrls and Pansing had sexual contact outside the cockpit during a flight in June. Pansing, 57, is married, according to the complaint.
Gehrls denies the allegations. She says that if it had happened on the ground, all the crew members would have seen it because the curtain between the galley and cockpit was open. And she says that Bumpus and other passengers took sleeping pills and Bumpus could not have “competently reported” such conduct if she had seen it while the plane was in the air.
Gehrls says Oprah did not fully investigate the story and knew it was false. She says that she and Pansing had impeccable performance records with Harpo, and that a polygraph exam showed that she and Pansing were truthful in denying the allegations, but Oprah refused to reinstate her.
Gehrls claims Gooch was difficult and demanding at work, and that Pansing often complained about him to Oprah. She claims that Oprah gave Gooch special treatment, including an unearned bonus and raise, and did not reprimand him after “Gooch accepted King’s offer to share the Jet’s double bed with her” during a 2008 flight from the Canary Islands to Chicago.
Gehrl says Pansing’s “disputes with Harpo have been resolved.”
Gehrls demands punitive damages from Gooch, Bumpus and Harpo, alleging defamation and lost wages.
Her lead attorney is Andrew Staes with Staes and Scallan.