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Laura Ingraham set to join Fox News as prime-time host

Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham will join Fox News Channel’s prime-time lineup as a host on Oct. 30, the network announced Monday.

Ingraham, a longtime contributor to Fox News, will be the weeknight host of “The Ingraham Angle,” at 10 p.m. ET. Sean Hannity on Sept. 25 will move to 9 p.m. ET, replacing “The Five,” which will return to its 5 p.m. slot.

Conservative firebrand Hannity will now go head-to-head with ideological opposite Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.

The 5 p.m. hour had been filled by “Fox News Specialists,” but the program was canceled Sept. 8 after host Eric Bolling was fired amid sexual harassment allegations, which he has denied.

The anticipated lineup change is the third this year for Fox News, which long had been known for the stability of its schedule. However, sexual harassment investigations have taken out two hosts — Bolling and prime-time star Bill O’Reilly.

In January, the network also moved Tucker Carlson into the 9 p.m. ET time period to replace the departing Megyn Kelly, who starts a new show next week on NBC. Carlson’s program moved to 8 p.m. ET in April to replace O’Reilly when he departed.

Ingraham has been a fixture at Fox News since 2007, once serving as one of the few substitutes for O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor.” She was earning close to $2 million a year as a contributor. Her salary as a full-time host is likely to be a multiple of that.

Ingraham’s solid following among conservative viewers is expected to maintain Fox News’ ratings levels, which have remained strong despite the disruption to the lineup. The network is still the most-watched cable news channel in overall viewers and the advertiser-favored age group of 25- to 54-year-olds.

Year-to-date Fox News is averaging 2.5 million viewers in prime time, up 10% from 2016, which was its best year ever. In the 25- to 54-year-old demographic, it’s up 16%.

Ingraham, 54, will continue hosting her syndicated radio program. She will also remain editor of LifeZette, the politics and culture website she founded two years ago, although without a day-to-day operational role.

Meanwhile, Fox News and its parent company 21st Century Fox were hit with another sexual harassment lawsuit Monday. Political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes has accused Fox Business Network host Charles Payne of raping her in July 2013. She said she was coerced into a sexual relationship with Payne in order to keep getting appearances on the network, which she believed would lead to a job as a commentator at Fox News.

Hughes’ suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, said her opportunities at the network stopped after the relationship ended in 2016 and she tried to bring the allegations to the attention of Fox News management.

Payne was suspended July 6 after the allegations were brought to the attention of Fox News and the law firm Paul, Weiss, which has been investigating harassment charges at the company for the last year.

Payne returned to his Fox Business Network program Sept. 8 after the investigation was completed. He has denied all of Hughes’ allegations.

Hughes’ lawsuit also accuses Fox News of leaking the story that Payne and Hughes were involved in what was described as a romantic affair.

“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,’” Hughes’ attorney Douglas Wigdor said. “We intend to aggressively litigate Ms. Hughes’ claims and hold Fox accountable to the fullest extent under the law.”

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio


UPDATES:

4:35 p.m.: This article was updated with details about a new sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Fox News and its parent company 21st Century Fox.

3:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional background information on Ingraham’s career.

This article was originally published at 12:10 p.m.

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