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 byformer Fox News guest Scottie Nell Hughes, claiming she was allegedly rapedby Fox Business host Charles Payne andsubsequently 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.