Charles Payne, Fox Business Network host, accused of rape, defended by...Fox!

Most of the Fox News employees – both on-air talent and executives – who have been accused of sexual impropriety during the past year have been left to defend themselves and have eventually been fired or forced to resign.  An exception is Fox Business Network host and Fox News guest host Charles V. Payne.  Last July 6, Payne was suspended after the National Enquirer ran a story claiming that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a frequent Fox News Channel female guest and that he used his position to harass and manipulate her for his own sexual gratification, with the result that her career was irreparably harmed.

Charles V. Payne.

The story made its way into the mainstream media, and, true to form, Fox immediately suspended Payne and had him investigated by the law firm Paul, Weiss.  Two months later, on September 8, the same day Fox News host Eric Bolling and Fox "parted ways" after allegations that Bolling had harassed three female colleagues, Payne was reinstated in his on-air duties.  Payne's return was a pleasant surprise to his fans, who probably expected a different outcome in light of the fact that another case of a male Fox employee who had been similarly accused but was subsequently reinstated did not immediately come to mind.

On September 18, Payne's accuser, Scottie Nell Hughes, a conservative commentator who emerged on the scene during the rise of the Tea Party, upped the ante by filing a civil lawsuit in federal court that charged for the first time that she had been the victim of rape by Payne.  One wondered if these new allegations would lead to new problems for Payne at his workplace.  But it was reported almost immediately that Fox News and 21st Century Fox, which are also named in Hughes's lawsuit, have denied the charges and are mounting a "vigorous" defense.  (Payne has his own lawyer, of course.)

Scottie Nell Hughes.

The New York Times detailed the charges in Hughes's lawsuit:

The lawsuit, alleging gender motivated violence, gender discrimination, retaliation and defamation, was filed on Monday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. . .

In her lawsuit, Ms. Hughes said that Mr. Payne had "pressured" his way into her hotel room in July 2013 and coerced her to have sexual intercourse with him, even though she had refused his advances by telling him "no" and "stop."

According to the suit, Ms. Hughes was "shocked and ashamed" and did not immediately report the episode. She said that over the next two years she was forced to engage in a sexual relationship with Mr. Payne. In exchange, she said, she received career opportunities, including increased appearances on Fox News and Fox Business and the promise that Mr. Payne would help her land a contributor contract, a job that can pay up to several hundred thousand dollars a year. Ms. Hughes never became a paid contributor at either channel.

Ms. Hughes, a regular guest on Fox News and Fox Business from 2013 through 2016, asserted that after she ended the relationship with Mr. Payne, the network blacklisted her. After she reported her allegations against him, she said, the network leaked a story to the news media about a romantic affair between Ms. Hughes and Mr. Payne.

Jonathan Halpern is an attorney representing Payne.  His statement on Monday was quoted by the Los Angeles Times:

My client Charles Payne 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.

On the other side of the case, Hughes's attorney, Douglas Wigdor, said in a statement:

As alleged in the complaint, after Ms. Hughes confidentially reached out to Fox to disclose that she was sexually assaulted and raped by Fox anchor Charles Payne, Fox ruthlessly leaked her name to a reporter at the National Enquirer, along with a self-serving "statement" by Payne apologizing for what he falsely described as an "affair." We intend to aggressively litigate Ms. Hughes' claims and hold Fox accountable to the fullest extent under the law.

The Los Angeles Times article quoted a Fox News spokesperson:

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.

It remains to be seen if Hughes's lawsuit will be settled, dismissed, withdrawn, or ultimately tried in court.  To this point, none of the complaints against male Fox employees by women has made its way through the judicial system.  In the meantime, it appears that Fox has Payne's back and that his job is secure.

Peter Barry Chowka is a widely published author and journalist.  He writes most frequently these days for American Thinker.  His website is  Follow Peter on Twitter.

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