Fox Business guest analyst Scottie Nell Hughes filed a lawsuit against the network on Monday, alleging that she faced discrimination after she told the company that Making Money host Charles Payne sexually assaulted her multiple times. Payne and Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, are also named in the suit.
Hughes said that Payne sexually assaulted her at a hotel in New York in 2013, forcing her to have sex with him despite denying the request multiple times. According to the lawsuit, Payne sexually coerced her for two years in exchange for appearances on Fox Business, Fox News, and an opportunity for a contributor contract with the news network. The latter never materialized.
Initially, Fox News suspended Payne for two months after Hughes told the network about the alleged sexual assaults in June. Payne was invited back onto the air earlier this month after concluding an internal investigation. But Hughes claims she was blacklisted after coming forward. She also said that Fox News leaked a story to the National Enquirer suggesting that “Ms. Hughes was a participant in an affair with Payne,” according to the lawsuit.
“In July of 2013, I was raped by Charles Payne,” Hughes said to the New York Times. “In July of 2017, I was raped again by Fox News. Since then, I have been living an absolute hell.”
Hughes also alleges that two network executives, Dianne Brandi and Irena Briganti, “knowingly and maliciously aided and abetted” discrimination and retaliation against the analyst, alleging that the two executives purposefully released the National Enquirer leak. Fox News and Payne have since defended themselves against the accusations, with the network calling the lawsuit “downright shameful.”
“We are confident that when the evidence is presented in this case, Mr. Payne will be fully vindicated and these outrageous accusations against him will be confirmed as completely false,” Jonathan Halpern, Payne’s lawyer, said according to the Times.
Fox News hosts and executives have faced dozens sexual harassment and assault allegations in recent years. Bill O’Reilly was let go by Fox earlier this April after sexual harassment allegations and settlements emerged. Fox parted with host Eric Bolling after he reportedly sent pictures of his genitals to multiple coworkers; the network also reached a $2.5 million settlement after Fox News Latino Vice President Francisco Cortes allegedly attempted to sexually assault Fox News contributor Tamara N. Holder. Most notably, the late Fox News chairman Roger Ailes also faced sexual harassment lawsuits from female contributors at the network.
Update 3:35p.m. CT, Sept. 19: A Fox News spokesperson sent the Daily Dot the following statement: “The latest publicity stunt of a lawsuit filed by Doug Wigdor has absolutely no merit and is downright shameful. We will vigorously defend this. It’s worth noting that Doug is Ms. Hughes’ third representative in the last six months to raise some variation of these claims which concern events from four years ago, since it apparently took some time to find someone willing to file this bogus case.”