Who Is Scottie Nell Hughes? Fox News Gets Hit By Another Sexual Assault Lawsuit
Allegations of sexual harassment have been leveled at male hosts and power players at Fox News with a disquieting regularity over the past few decades. The latest comes in a civil suit filed Monday by former Fox News guest Scottie Nell Hughes, claiming she was allegedly raped by Fox Business host Charles Payne and subsequently let go by the network for reporting it, she claims. An investigation conducted internally by Fox News exonerated Payne, who says he is innocent of Hughes' charges. Fox News says Hughes' lawsuit has "absolutely no merit."
Hughes' suit claims that in 2013, Payne allegedly "pressured his way" into her hotel room, and that, according to her statement, he later reportedly raped her after she asked him repeatedly to "stop," she says. In a statement, Payne's lawyer called these allegations "outrageous," and said Payne "denies any wrongdoing."
Payne does admit to having an affair with Hughes, a relationship she also acknowledges, but the two have differing accounts of its nature. Hughes claims she felt more or less forced to continue interacting with Payne, and was allegedly promised career advancement at Fox News for doing so. Payne denies this also. A Fox News representative has dismissed the suit as a "publicity stunt."
The Fox News network came under intense scrutiny in April when The New York Times reported it had paid multi-million dollar settlements to keep women accusers of Fox News bigwig Bill O'Reilly from going public. The network first stood by O'Reilly, with 21st Century Fox responding to the New York Times that O'Reilly "denies the merits of these claims." However, within three weeks of the article going live, 21st Century Fox confirmed that one of cable news' biggest stars was going off air: "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel."
How Hughes' civil suit plays out in the legal system remains to be seen. But it occasions a look back through Fox News' history with accusations of sexual assault and harassment.
Gretchen Carlson's Lawsuit Alleging Roger Ailes Sexually Harassed Her
In July 2016, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed an explosive lawsuit alleging that then-Fox News President Roger Ailes had sexually harassed her, and that her attempt to push back against the "discriminatory culture" at Fox News had resulted in Carlson being fired. Ailes vehemently denied her claims. Shortly thereafter, host Megyn Kelly also alleged Ailes had made unwanted sexual advances when she first started working at Fox News 10. (Ailes also roundly denied Kelly's allegations.)
Eight other women eventually came forward accusing Ailes of sexual harassment: Marsha Callahan, Kellie Boyle, Rudie Bakhtiar, Laurie Luhn, Laurie Dhue, Andrea Tantaros, Shelley Ross, and Julie Roginsky. Ailes either denied or refrained from commenting publicly on the allegations against him.
Ailes resigned from Fox News just over two weeks after Carlson's initial lawsuit broke the dam on keeping accusations of Ailes' behavior quiet.
Bill O'Reilly Accused By 5 Women Of Sexual Harassment
Investigating reports about sexual harassment allegations against Bill O'Reilly led journalists at The New York Times to a startling discovery — Fox News or O'Reilly had paid altogether about $13 million to settle out of court with several of his accusers. Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Gomez Diamond, Laurie Dhue, and Juliet Huddy received generous payouts from Fox News or O'Reilly himself in exchange for not going public.
Those allegations include "verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating." Two other former Fox News employees — Wendy Walsh and Andrea Tantaros — have also accused O'Reilly of sexual harassment. O'Reilly has denied all of these allegations, but he parted ways with Fox News in April 2017.
Three Female Colleagues Accused Eric Bolling Of Texting Unsolicited Photo Of Male Genitalia
HuffPost first reported one of the most recent Fox News scandals, citing three unnamed current and former colleagues of Eric Bolling. All claim to have received an unsolicited text photo from the host of The Specialists and Cashin' In that depicted male genitalia. In total, HuffPost confirmed with 14 sources the women's claims.
Bolling's attorney denied the allegations, stating, "Mr. Bolling recalls no such inappropriate communications, does not believe he sent any such communications, and will vigorously pursue his legal remedies for any false and defamatory accusations that are made.” Bolling parted ways with Fox News on Sep. 8, 2017.
Tamara Holder Accuses Francisco Cortes Of Sexual Assault
Tamara Holder, a former Fox News contributor, accused then-President of Fox Latino Francisco Cortes of reportedly trying to force her to perform oral sex in 2015. Fox News settled with Holder and fired Cortes.
Cortes has since filed his own lawsuit against Fox News, claiming he was allegedly made out to be a scapegoat to give the public perception of Fox News being tough on sexual harassment. Cortes claims other more famous Fox News personnel did not face company repercussions for their own misconduct. A Fox News representative called Cortes' lawsuit "frivolous and and without merit."
Bill Shine Leaves Fox News Amid Accusations He Did Not Properly Respond To Allegations About Ailes & O'Reilly
Bill Shine is the former co-president of Fox News, and was at one time considered to be the possible future White House communications director. That ship has apparently sailed.
Shine left Fox News after repeatedly being accused of ignoring or mishandling reports of sexual harassment — claims he has denied — particularly allegations involving Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly.
Kim Weiler Accuses Joe Chillemi Of Sexual Harassment & Creating A "Hostile Work Environment"
One of the earlier cases of sexual harassment against Fox News came in 2005, and was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. The lawsuit contended that former Fox employee Kim Weiler was allegedly let go by the company after reporting the behavior of then-executive producer Joe Chillemi.
According to Weiler, Chillemi reportedly sexually harassed Weiler and other female coworkers, and, according to the suit, used lewd and offensive language to refer to women and women's body parts. Fox News eventually settled the lawsuit out of court. A lawyer for Fox News called the lawsuit "legally baseless."
There have been numerous allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault leveled at Fox News employees and executives over the years. It's a reputation that the network is trying hard to change, as it vies to acquire British-based Sky News. Regulators and activists have been attempting to persuade British authorities to reject Fox News's offer, and citing the many complaints about a hostile work environment for women is one of of their arguments.
Scottie Nell Hughes' latest allegations of sexual assault are one more example those opposed to the Fox News deal are likely to use as evidence.