A lawsuit filed on Monday against Fox News alleges that the network blacklisted one of its guests after she accused a host of rape.
Political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes in July said that four years ago she was raped by Fox Business’ Charles Payne, host of “Making Money.” Payne was suspended while the network investigated the claims but returned on air this month.
Sexual harassment scandals at the company continue to pile up.
“In July 2013, while they were both in New York City to appear on a Fox program, Payne pressured his way into Ms. Hughes’s hotel room for a ‘private discussion,’” the suit states. “Tragically, Payne sexually assaulted and raped Ms. Hughes. Despite her clear refusal of his advances and telling him ‘no’ and to ‘stop,’ Payne forced her to engage in sexual intercourse against her will. Too shocked and ashamed to speak out, Ms. Hughes told no one about what happened.”
The suit alleges discrimination, retaliation, defamation, gender violence and aiding and abetting in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law.
Claims of evidence suggesting a consensual relationship came to light this summer amid Hughes’ accusations. Red Alert Politics, a conservative funded website, published three emails the outlet claimed were “verified by two sources,” allegedly written by Hughes and addressed to Payne. The sexually explicit emails portray the relationship as mutual:
“Do you know what I keep dreaming about.. You and I in the pool… My legs wrapped around your waste (sic) and you have me pressed up against the wall of the pool… Skin glistening and smelling of coconut…. You thrusting yourself deeper inside with each push… And your fingers grasping each of my cheeks,” one email reads.
“You are going to need every once (sic) of energy if we are ever given the chance of lots of time and no commitments,” a second one reads.
A third email says, “That is the ideal way to start a Saturday or any day for that matter”; according to Red Alert Politics, this is “describing them interacting in the morning.”
According to Monday’s lawsuit, Payne’s status allowed him to “coerce” Hughes into a sexual relationship. The filing states:
“What constitutes a consensual affair between adults in a relationship outside of the workplace is not the same as a relationship between a male employee in a position of authority and a female subordinate in the workplace. Payne used his position of power to pressure Ms. Hughes into submission.”
The nightmare only became worse when Hughes tried to hold the network accountable for its host’s actions, the suit states. After reporting the alleged crime to the network, “Fox responded with an appalling cruelty.”
“In July of 2013, I was raped by Charles Payne,” Hughes said in an interview 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.”
In addition to Fox News, the lawsuit names 21st Century Fox, its parent company; Dianne Brandi, Fox’s executive vice president, legal and business affairs; Irena Briganti, executive vice president of corporate communications for Fox News and Fox Business Networks; and Payne.
Hughes claims that this past July, Fox leaked information regarding her relationship with Payne to a reporter with the National Enquirer. Fox’s actions were “indefensible,” according to the suit: “Fox’s malicious decision to reveal her identity to the National Enquirer, knowing that she is a rape victim, exceeds the bounds of all decency.”
The leak was at the hands of Brandi and Briganti, according to the lawsuit, which says the women “issued a false narrative to The National Enquirer that Ms. Hughes was a participant in an affair with Payne” and “revealed Ms. Hughes’s identity to The National Enquirer.”
In addition to the humiliation Hughes faced after the story leaked, according to the lawsuit, Hughes began losing opportunities as soon as she cut ties with Payne. She appeared on Fox five times over the course of 10 months; previously, she appeared on air four or five times in one week.
“Eventually, she learned that Fox had blacklisted her,” the suit states.
Fox News has strongly defended Payne. In a statement to The Daily Beast the network called the lawsuit “bogus” and a “publicity stunt,” vowing to “vigorously defend this.”
Doug Wigdor, Hughes’ attorney, slammed the network’s response.
“Fox cannot spin its way out of this crisis — especially when only Fox is to blame for what happened,” he said, according to Deadline. “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 two months ago when Fox Executives at the highest levels leaked Ms. Hughes’s name to a tabloid.”
“Sadly,” Wigdor added, “nothing has changed at Fox.”
Fox has been engrossed in a series of allegations of sexual assault, rape and cover ups over the last year that start at the very top. Accusations of sexual harassment against former chairman Roger Ailes, who passed away earlier this year, and former top personality Bill O’Reilly have also come out over the last year.