Political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes files lawsuit alleging she was raped by Fox Business host Charles Payne

Political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes, who this year said she was raped in July 2013 by Fox Business Network host Charles Payne, made that allegation in a civil lawsuit filed Monday.

Payne was suspended from his role as an on-air host July 6 while the allegations, made to Fox News and its parent 21st Century Fox, were being investigated by the law firm Paul, Weiss. Payne was cleared in the investigation and returned to his hosting duties on Fox Business Network on Sept. 8.

Hughes’ suit in a federal court in New York names Payne, 21st Century Fox and Fox News. Hughes also alleges that 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, a Republican commentator and a supporter of President Trump, said her opportunities to appear on Fox Business Network and Fox News stopped after her relationship with Payne ended in 2016, and she tried to bring the allegations to the attention of Fox News management.

Payne denied all of Hughes’ accusations when they were first made in July. A Fox News spokesperson said the lawsuit has “absolutely no merit.”

Jonathan Halpern, a lawyer representing Payne, said in a statement: “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.”

Hughes’ lawsuit also says Fox News and two of its executives, Dianne Brandi and Irena Briganti, were responsible for 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 in a statement. “We intend to aggressively litigate Ms. Hughes’ claims and hold Fox accountable to the fullest extent under the law.”

The Los Angeles Times previously reported the allegations against Payne but did not name Hughes because of the claims that she was a victim of sexual assault.

A Fox News spokesperson said the network will “vigorously” defend the lawsuit.

“The latest publicity stunt of a lawsuit filed by Doug Wigdor has absolutely no merit and is downright shameful,” the spokesperson said. “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.”

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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