Conservative political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes has sued Fox News Channel, alleging she was raped by Fox Business anchor Charles Payne and that the company retaliated against her for making the accusation.
Hughes, often interviewed during the presidential campaign as a supporter of Donald Trump, filed the suit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, The New York Times reports. It alleges gender-motivated violence, gender discrimination, retaliation, and defamation.
Hughes, who appeared regularly on Fox News and sibling channel Fox Business from 2013 to 2016, said in the suit that Payne “had ‘pressured’ his way into her hotel room in July 2013 and coerced her to have sexual intercourse with him, even though she had refused his advances by telling him ‘no’ and ‘stop,’” the Times reports.
Over the next two years, she said, she was forced to engage in a sexual relationship with Payne, who had promised to help her become a paid contributor to the cable channels. But no such offer ever materialized. And when she ended the relationship with Payne, Fox blacklisted her, she alleged.
“According to the lawsuit, Ms. Hughes experienced a sudden decline in bookings across cable news networks in early 2017 and was told by a booking agent that Fox had blacklisted her because she ‘had an affair with someone at Fox,’” the Times reports. “As a result, Ms. Hughes said, she was taken out of consideration for positions in the Trump administration.”
Hughes was a paid contributor to CNN during the presidential campaign, but her contract there ended early this year. In June, she told her manager to share her claims against Payne with the law firm investigating sexual harassment issues at Fox. The National Enquirer then published an article saying Payne was apologizing for an extramarital “romantic affair,” based on a leak from the company, the Times reports. The Enquirer did not name Hughes, but some other outlets did.
“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.”
Payne, the host of Making Money, was suspended in July while Fox investigated the allegations against him, but he returned to Fox Business this month, the Times notes.
The suit names Payne, Fox News, and parent company 21st Century Fox as defendants, along with 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 two women, according to Hughes’s suit, “aided and abetted” the discrimination and retaliation against her, and leaked false information to the Enquirer.
Fox News issued a statement calling the lawsuit a “publicity stunt” and vowed to defend the company “vigorously,” the Times reports.
Hughes is the latest in a series of women to allege sexual misconduct on the part of high-profile men at Fox. Roger Ailes, the news channel’s founder, resigned in 2016 amid such allegations by former anchor Gretchen Carlson and others, and star host Bill O’Reilly was forced out this year after it was reported that he had paid millions to settle sexual harassment suits. And just this month, Eric Bolling, cohost of Fox News Specialists, left the company after the story broke that he had sent unsolicited sexual text messages to female colleagues.