Political commentator and former frequent Fox News guest Scottie Nell Hughes filed a lawsuit against the conservative news network Monday that claims she was sexually abused over a period of years by Fox Business host Charles Payne and then retaliated against by the network when she came forward with her allegations, The New York Times reports.
Hughes claims in the suit that in July 2013, Payne "pressured" her into letting him into her hotel room and coerced her into having sex with him, even though she said "no" and "stop." After the incident, she says she engaged in a coercive sexual relationship with Payne where he doled out increased appearances on Fox News and Fox Business and promised her that he would help her obtain a contributor contract, which never materialized.
Hughes had been a regular guest on the network from 2013 to 2016, but that after she cut ties with Payne the network allegedly blacklisted her. According to the lawsuit, after she reported her allegations against him to the network in June 2017, the network leaked a story to the National Enquirer that characterized her relationship with Payne as a consensual extramarital affair. She claims that her career has suffered as her bookings have declined across cable networks, including at CNN, where she was a paid contributor.
"In July of 2013, I was raped by Charles Payne," Hughes told the Times. "In July of 2017, I was raped again by Fox News. Since then, I have been living an absolute hell."
The lawsuit alleges gender motivated violence, gender discrimination, retaliation and defamation and was filed on Monday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. It names 21st Century Fox, Fox News, Payne, Dianne Brandi, the executive vice president of legal and business affairs at Fox News; and Irena Briganti, the network's executive vice president of corporate communications; the latter two of whom she alleges leaked the story to the Enquirer.
Payne was suspended from Making Money, the show he hosts on Fox Business, in July pending an investigation into the allegations. He returned to work this month.
In a statement, Fox News said the lawsuit was "bogus," "downright shameful" and a "publicity stunt of a lawsuit" by Hughes' attorney Douglas H. Wigdor.
Wigdor, who is representing several current and former Fox News employees in harassment and discrimination cases against the network, said Fox was victim-blaming. "Fox cannot spin its way out of this crisis — especially when only Fox is to blame for what happened," he said in a statement.
Hughes' suit is the latest development in a long string of sexual misconduct allegations at the network. Before his death, founder Roger Ailes stepped down amidst allegations he had used his position to extract sexual favors from female employees. He was followed by the network's highest-rated host Bill O'Reilly, who was ousted amidst a sexual harassment scandal of his own; as well as co-president Bill Shine, who helped cover up the scandal; and Fox Business host Eric Bolling, who was fired earlier this month for harassing Fox News employees.