Political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes filed a lawsuit Monday accusing Charles Payne, a Fox Business Network host, of rape. Hughes says Payne raped her in a hotel room in July 2013 after he "pressured" his way into her room.
The network is strongly defending Payne, the host of Making Money on Fox Business, calling Hughes' allegations against him a "publicity stunt".
Fox News released a statement Monday excoriating Hughes and her lawyer for the filing. "Since then, I have been living an absolute hell", Hughes told The Times.
RadarOnline.com and The National Enquirer broke the news of Hughes' relationship with Payne, who admitted a relationship but offered an apology and after a brief suspension returned to the network on-air. According to the lawsuit, Hughes said booking agents told her the reason for her decline in TV appearances was that "she had an affair with someone at Fox", The Times reported.
"He received a call from a reporter at the National Enquirer who was seeking comment about a breaking story involving an alleged affair between Ms. Hughes and Payne".
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of NY, names Payne, Fox News, and its parent company 21st Century Fox, alleging gender motivated violence, gender discrimination, retaliation, and defamation. Hughes says in her lawsuit that Payne coerced her "into a sexual relationship in exchange for career opportunities and benefits" and used his "position of power to pressure Ms. Hughes into submission". He was later put back on the air after Fox News completed their internal investigation. "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". "We will vigorously defend this", Fox News said.
Monday's lawsuit is a troubling development for Fox News, which is reeling from sexual harassment scandals that led to the ouster of chairman Roger Ailes a year ago and popular host Bill O'Reilly in April. "We intend to aggressively litigate Ms. Hughes's claims and hold Fox accountable to the fullest extent under the law".
A bevy of allegations suggesting harassment and/or discrimination have been levied at Fox News Channel since its former leader, Roger Ailes, was ousted a year ago. Earlier this year, Fox's most prominent host Bill O'Reilly was forced to resign after revelations about millions of dollars in settlements paid to women who came forward with claims that he acted inappropriately or harassed them. Actually, she was a regular guest on Fox, and didn't have a contributor contract.