Conservative commentator Scottie Nell Hughes on Monday filed a lawsuit against the network, which she accused of retaliating against her after she accused Fox Business host Charles Payne of rape.
In the lawsuit against the network and Payne, Hughes alleged that Fox News “responded with an appalling cruelty” when she told the network that Payne “sexually assaulted and raped” her.
Hughes alleged that Payne “pressured his way” into her New York hotel room in 2013 and “forced her to engage in sexual intercourse against her will” over Hughes’ “clear” and verbal refusal.
“After the rape, Payne’s invitations to Ms. Hughes to appear on Fox shows
increased dramatically,” the lawsuit alleged. “Despite his sexual assault and rape, he managed to coerce Ms. Hughes, his subordinate, into a sexual relationship in exchange for career opportunities and benefits.”
After Hughes terminated that relationship, the lawsuit alleged, she “went from appearing on Fox programs four or five times a week to only appearing five times in total over a ten-month period” and eventually “learned that Fox had blacklisted her.”
Hughes accused Fox News of leaking a story in June about “an alleged affair” between herself and Payne to the National Enquirer.
“In July of 2013, I was raped by Charles Payne,” Hughes said in an interview on Monday with the New York Times. “In July of 2017, I was raped again by Fox News. Since then, I have been living an absolute hell.”
Fox News confirmed in September that Payne would return to the airwaves two months after he was suspended while the network conducted an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him. Payne denied those allegations.
The network did not respond to TPM’s questions earlier in September on whether Payne had been cleared of the accusations against him.
A Fox News spokesperson on Monday called Hughes’ claim “bogus” and said the lawsuit was a “publicity stunt” with “absolutely no merit” that the network will “vigorously defend.”
“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,” the spokesperson said, referring to Hughes’ attorney, Douglas Wigdor.
“Fox cannot spin its way out of this crisis – especially when only Fox is to blame for what happened,” Wigdor told TPM by email on Tuesday.
“Regardless of the fact that the sexual assault and rape, as alleged, happened in 2013, the events exposing Fox’s liability exposure (as opposed to Payne) occurred less than 2 months ago when Fox Executives at the highest levels leaked Ms. Hughes’s name to a tabloid,” he said.
Wigdor said the “representatives” the Fox News spokesperson referred to included Hughes’ “agent and a lawyer not admitted in NY.”
“So the suggestion that Ms. Hughes was shopping for a lawyer, is yet another desperate attempt at avoiding the real issues and blaming the victim,” he said. “Sadly, nothing has changed at Fox.”
Allegations of sexual harassment within the network resulted in recent months in the ousters of late CEO Roger Ailes, co-president Bill Shine and star host Bill O’Reilly.
Read Hughes’ lawsuit below:
This post has been updated.