Conservative political analyst Scottie Nell Hughes has accused Fox Business Network host Charles Payne of sexual harassment. Payne was suspended on July 6 while the network investigated her allegation. Payne returned to the network in early September. On September 18, Hughes and her attorneys, Douglas Wigdor and Jeanne M. Christensen, filed a lawsuit against Fox and Payne, alleging that her rape allegations led to her being blacklisted at the network.
The two married television personalities had a three-year affair and Hughes alleges that her role at Fox News and FBN decreased significantly after she tried to tell Fox News executives about the alleged harassment. The 37-year-old Hughes is married with two children.
According to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported that 21st Century Fox was investigating the claims this past summer, Hughes contacted Fox’s law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison about her allegations last month. Although the Times chose not to identify Hughes as the woman making the claims against Payne, The Huffington Post reported that she is the accuser.
Hughes spent the 2016 presidential campaign at CNN, where she defended Donald Trump before he won the election. She is also the editor of Right Alerts, which bills itself as “Breaking News Without The Liberal Bias,” and writes essays on her own website. She is the former news director of the Tea Party News Network. She also wrote the 2014 Roar: The New Conservative Woman Speaks Out.
On Twitter, Hughes has not posted a statement about her allegations, but she has retweeted a post Gretchen Carlson shared, to mark the one-year anniversary of her sexual harassment complaint against the late Roger Ailes, the former CEO of Fox News. Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Fox Sports’ Jamie Horowitz were all ousted by 21st Century Fox amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Here’s what you need to know about Hughes and her allegations.
1. Hughes Sued Payne & Fox on September 18, Claiming She Was Raped by Payne & Was ‘Blacklisted’ at the Network
Sources familiar with Hughes’ complaint told the Los Angeles Times that her representative told Paul, Weiss that she thought she was getting “blackballed” by the network after she ended her three-year affair with Payne in 2015. She claims that she tried to tell then-Fox News and FBN Co-President Bill Shine between March 2016 and March 2016, but was unsuccessful.
Hughes, who was never a Fox News employee, claims Payne “coerced” her into a sexual relationship with him, the Times reports. She told her lawyer that she thought continuing the affair would lead to becoming a paid contributor for Fox News and FBN, but that never happened. After she ended the affair, her appearances on the network deceased, sources told the Times. Hughes’ lawyer is preparing to file a complaint.
Payne’s attorney, Neal Korval, told the Times that the claims of sexual harassment are “categorically false” and vowed to fight the claims in court. Payne did apologize for the affair in a National Enquirer statement on Wednesday.
“I will fight this like a lion armed with truth. Thanks so much to all those that have reached out in support,” Payne wrote on Twitter.
Payne was suspended by Fox, while the investigation is ongoing.
“We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy for any professional misconduct,” a Fox Business Network spokesperson said in a statement. “This matter is being thoroughly investigated and we are taking all of the appropriate steps to reach a resolution in a timely manner.”
In her lawsuit, Hughes describes her sexual encounter with Payne as “rape.” Her attorneys also accuse Fox of leaking her name to the National Enquirer “knowing that Ms. Hughes was a victim of a violent sexual assault.” Over time, as her appearances on Fox began to decrease, she claims she “learned that Fox had blacklisted her” through a talent booking agent, while Payne continued to work.
“My complaint speaks for itself,” Hughes said in a statement. “What is most important to me is that justice will prevent other women from going through the nightmare I’m now living. On my behalf, Wigdor LLP will expose Fox’s unconscionable conduct, including leaking my name to the media. I am grateful to my husband, family, friends and colleagues for the outpouring of love and support.”
Wigdor and Christensen added, “On behalf of Scottie Nell Hughes, today we filed an action against Fox to hold it accountable for yet another case involving sexual harassment and retaliation inflicted by Fox executives in order to protect male, on-air talent. 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.” We intend to aggressively litigate Ms. Hughes’s claims and hold Fox accountable to the fullest extent under the law.”
You can read the entire lawsuit below. Click here if you cannot see the document on your device.
2. Hughes Was 1 of Donald Trump’s Biggest Supporters on CNN During the Campaign
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Hughes got a gig at CNN, where she was featured in clips that went viral. In one famous incident in October, Hughes and Ana Navarro argued over Trump’s use of the word “pu**y” in the infamous Access Hollywood tape. Navarro kept saying the word, as Hughes was clearly uncomfortable.
“Don’t tell me you’re offended when I say pussy, but you’re not offended when Donald Trump says it!” Navarro yelled at her. “I’m not running for president, he is!”
In an interview with GQ, Hughes said she was surprised by the viral reaction to the moment.
“It wasn’t anything against her, but I’ve said time and time again that I don’t agree with Mr. Trump’s comments or those words,” Hughes told the magazine. “To me, that word, to women, is the same word as the N-word to African-Americans, and there’s no tolerance in my book for it. It doesn’t exist in my household, it doesn’t exist in my vocabulary in public. I just don’t do that.”
Hughes was just one of the many pro-Trump contributors CNN brought on. Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany and A.J. Delgado all appeared on the network to defend Trump. Critics took aim at CNN for hiring them, and there is even a MoveOn.org petition with over 1,000 signatures to get the network to remove them.
Hughes left CNN when her contract expired in January. She insisted that she did not intend to stay on the network after Trump’s inauguration.
3. Hughes Accidentally Said ‘Mazel Tov Cocktail’ Instead of ‘Molotov Cocktail’ & Blasted Samantha Bee for Making Fun of Her
During a moment on CNN just before the election, Hughes accidentally referred to Molotov cocktails as “Mazel Tov Cocktails” when talking about Jay Z’s appearance at a Hillary Clinton event. “One of his main videos starts off with a crowd throwing Mazel Tov cocktails at the police. And that’s very much an anti-police message,” Hughes said.
That was another viral moment for Hughes, and one that still comes up. Samantha Bee joked during her Not The White House Correspondents Dinner event that it was evidence of “brain damage.”
Hughes responded with an open letter on Radar Online, blasting Bee for her “slip of the tongue” mistake.
“Making fun of a silly verbal stumble on Live TV is fair game. But bullying with hurtful insults about someone’s intelligence is not,” Hughes wrote to Bee. “Hypocritical bullies like you will march on Washington at the drop of a hat, to allegedly support ‘women’s rights,’ but then attack and demean women who possess differing political views. Shame on you and your team of writers. You owe me a sincere apology.”
4. Hughes’ Husband Is a GOP State Committeeman in Tennessee & She Has 2 Children
Hughes’ husband is Chris Hughes, a Tennessee Republican Party committeeman. He is also an Army veteran and homebuilder. They have two children, 10-year-old Houston and 9-year-old Alexandra Lynn.
Chris Hughes was a Tennessee Trump delegate during the Republican primary season. He told the Times Free Press in April 2016 that the establishment Republicans would try to take Trump supporters’ “votes away” in every state.
“I fear that a train wreck is headed to Cleveland,” Chris Hughes warned. The “establishment” wasn’t successful and Trump became the party’s nominee and won the general election.
Chris Hughes was also a Trump delegate for Tennessee at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
On June 13, Hughes told the Tennessean she is considering a run for Congress if Rep. Diane Black runs for Tennessee governor.
“I’ve been approached by several to consider the congressional race if Congresswoman Diane Black decides to move on and run for governor,” she said. “She’s a very powerful Republican female in Washington, D.C. and I would definitely consider it knowing that the Republican Party needs to continue to have strong female leadership and female voices in D.C.”
5. Hughes’ Brother Was Killed Before She Was Born
Hughes’ life was marked by tragedy before she was born. The Tennessean reported that Hughes’ brother Cliff was killed when he was 8 years old, eight years before she was born. Hughes has no other siblings.
Cliff was killed in his nanny’s condo by his nanny’s son, who was 12 years old at the time. No charges were filed.
“The sheriff told me, ‘It’s kinda like this… No one will ever know what went on in that bedroom,'” Hughes’ mother, Linda Semler, told the Tennessean.
Hughes always looked at pictures of Cliff and wondered what he would be like today. “I always tried to imagine if we looked alike. I always wondered what it would be like to have a playmate,” she told the Tennessean.
Despite her family’s own experience with gun violence, Hughes has taken a pro-gun stance and supports the NRA. After the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, Hughes went on Piers Morgan’s CNN show and defended gun owners’ rights. “It wasn’t the gun. It was evil,” she said.