A political commentator who formerly appeared on Fox News says the network took her off air after she accused a host of raping her, according to a new lawsuit filed Monday.
Scottie Nell Hughes, a onetime guest analyst for the Fox Business Network, alleged that she was raped by host Charles Payne and that Fox News went against her when she came forward with her claim. Payne returned to host Making Money on Fox Business this month after being suspended in July, amid an investigation into his conduct, the New York Times reports.
Hughes’s lawsuit claims that Payne in July 2013 “pressured” his way into her hotel room for a “private discussion” and raped her even after she told him “no” and “stop.” Over the next two years, Payne forced Hughes into a sexual relationship in exchange for career opportunities, Hughes says in the lawsuit.
“Payne used his position of power to pressure Ms. Hughes into submission,” the lawsuit says.
According to the lawsuit, Fox blacklisted Hughes when she cut off her relationship with Payne. Hughes accused the network of leaking a story to The National Enquirer that portrayed her relationship with Payne as a consensual affair after she came forward with allegations against Payne.
“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 in absolute hell.”
Payne’s attorney, Jonathan Halpern said in a statement that his client “vehemently denies any wrongdoing and will defend himself vigorously against this baseless complaint.
“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,” Halpern said.
The accusations come amid a string of sexual harassment allegations at Fox over the last year. Longtime host Bill O’Reilly left the network in April, amid accusations of sexual harassment. Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes similarly left the company after numerous allegations of sexual harassment last year.
Hughes’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, names 21st Century Fox, Fox News and Payne. It further names Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti and executive vice president of legal and business affairs Dianne Brandi, claiming they “revealed Ms. Hughes’s identity to The National Enquirer.”
Fox News called the lawsuit a “bogus case” in a 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,” a spokesperson for the network told Fortune. “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.”