(Updated with statement from Fox News, Payne & Hughes attorney) Less than two weeks after returning to Fox Business Network from suspension after an investigation over claims of sexual harassment, the host of Making Money With Charles Payne has been accused today of rape in a new lawsuit. A lawsuit that Fox News and an attorney for Payne refute.
“However painful it is to expose the fact that she is a rape victim, and knowing that the Fox PR machine will follow through with its threats to reveal more personal emails, Ms. Hughes cannot allow Fox to victimize her a second time by trampling on her reputation and ruining her career in order to promote the actions of a male on-air talent,” lawyers for political analyst and former frequent FBN guest Scottie Nell Hughes says in the seven claim complaint filed in federal court on Monday (read it here).
“Through Fox’s sham investigation of Payne, it opted for business as usual and blamed Ms. Hughes for the discrimination she experienced, retaliated against her in a terrifying manner, and restored Payne to his position of power,” the jury seeking defamation and more filing by Hughes attorney Doug Wigdor against Payne personally, Fox News Network, several executives and parent company 21st Century Fox asserts.
“The latest publicity stunt of a lawsuit filed by Doug Wigdor has absolutely no merit and is downright shameful,” said a Fox News spokesperson to Deadline on Monday. “We will vigorously defend this,” the cabler newser stated.” 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,” Fox News adds.
NYC attorney Wigdor along with Jeanne Christensen and Michael Willemin of Wigdor LLP represents Hughes in this matter.
“My client Charles Payne vehemently denies any wrongdoing and will defend himself vigorously against this baseless complaint,” said Jonathan Halpern of Foley & Lardner LLP today. “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.”
While Payne’s attorney and Fox News do not address the sexual assault allegations specifically and directly, clearly there are two very different perceptions at least of what occurred between Hughes and Payne and the afermath.
“The …conduct of Defendant Payne, including, but not limited to, Defendant Payne’s sexual assault and rape of Plaintiff, constitutes a ‘crime of violence’ and a ‘crime of violence motivated by gender’ against Plaintiff,” says Hughes’ injunction and unspecified damages seeking action stemming from an alleged July 2013 incident in Hughes’ New York City hotel room.
Over the next two years and more, Hughes says she appeared up to “four or fives times a week” on Fox News programs as “Payne used his position of power to pressure” her “into submission. Those appearances decreased substantially says Ms. Hughes after she ended the relationship in 2015 and ceased all together in March 2016 under pressure from Payne’s wife.
Payne was suspended by Fox News on July 7 and investigated for sexual harassment by the frequently accused former Roger Ailes run organization. Cleared in that investigation, he former Wall Street analyst and FBN contributor since 2007 was brought back on-air on September 8. It was that reinstatement that prompted Hughes to take the matter to the courts, the complaint states.
However, well as going on a self-defending Twitter rant this summer, the married Payne told the National Enquirer on July 6 that he had an affair with an also-married female political analyst who was a frequent guest on FBN from 2013 until 2016. That analyst was Hughes, whose name was revealed in the Enquirer piece. That leaked revelation was orchestrated by “the Fox public relations (“PR”) machine,” says the complaint.
“While there are admittedly, many emails that Fox and Payne will no doubt use to suggest that a consensual relationship existed after the July 2013 sexual violence, describing what happened here as simply an ‘affair’ or ‘consensual relationship’ is misleading and wrong,” says the 29-page complaint of the former FBN and CNN guest.
Ms. Hughes says she had initially confidentially spoken to Fox attorneys at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in June about the assault by Payne, the subsequent relationship and on-air “blacklisting” when she ended it.
“The lead independent lawyer suggested that it would be best to reach a business solution rather than conduct a formal investigation,” the complaint states in language that seems very familiar to how millions of dollars in settlements from sexual harassment claims against FNC superstar Bill O’Reilly were dealt with. After a tab of over $13 million became public earlier this year and advertisers started pulling their ads, The O’Reilly Factor host was cut loose from FNC in April after over 20-years with a big payout of his own.
“Fox cannot spin its way out of this crisis – especially when only Fox is to blame for what happened,” Hughes’ lawyer Wigdor said of the statement by the cable newer today after the new legal action was filed. “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 2 months ago when Fox Executives at the highest levels leaked Ms. Hughes’s name to a tabloid,” the Manhattan based attorney added. “The ‘representatives’ that Fox refers to in its statement include her agent and a lawyer not admitted in NY, so the suggestion that Ms. Hughes was shopping for a lawyer is yet another desperate attempt at avoiding the real issues and blaming the victim. Sadly, nothing has changed at Fox.”
Wigdor has and is currently representing a number of past and present Fox News employees and contributors who have discrimination and harassment claims against the Rupert Murdoch run organization. Wigdor has been a thorn in the usually almost omnipotent Murdoch’s paw, as he has repeatedly sought to derail 21CF’s latest multi-billion bid to takeover Euro pay TV giant Sky.
On September 12, in another bump in the road for the Murdochs, UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley has told the House of Commons that she is minded to refer the £11.7B takeover bid to the Competition and Markets Authority for review on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.
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