Plagued by scandal, Fox struggles to change culture

New York (AFP) – A former Fox Business Network guest commentator has accused a prominent host of rape — the latest in a series of sexual misconduct allegations to rock the broadcaster.

Scottie Nell Hughes, 37, filed a civil lawsuit Monday in federal court in New York against presenter Charles Payne and Fox News, according to documents reviewed by AFP.

According to Hughes’ lawsuit, Payne, who hosts “Making Money” on the Fox Business channel, raped her in a hotel room in July 2013. But she maintained a sexual relationship with him for almost two years, believing that this would give her more opportunities to appear on the air.

During that time she appeared regularly not only on Payne’s program but also on other Fox Business programs and on Fox News, both subsidiaries of 21st Century Fox.

After ending the relationship in June 2015, Hughes said her appearances rapidly decreased, with her final appearance in March 2016.

She said she learned from Fox employees that they had been instructed to stop booking her.

The media company also compromised her chances of securing a position in the new Trump administration, Hughes alleged.

In June, Hughes’ manager contacted the law firm investigating a culture of sexual misconduct at Fox, which came after several women accused male journalists and executives of harassment and other misdeeds.

Payne was suspended from his job in July as an investigation was carried out. He returned to work this month.

According to the lawsuit, Fox leaked Hughes’ name to the National Enquirer tabloid, which ran a salacious story in July about the affair.

In a statement sent to AFP, Payne’s lawyer dismissed Hughes’ charges as completely false, and said he was confident that his client would be cleared. The Fox News channel also said the lawsuit was unfounded.

This new allegation follows a series of scandals at Fox linked to sexual harassment, including those that prompted Fox News’s powerful chairman Roger Ailes to step down, and which led the network to part ways with star anchor Bill O’Reilly.

In response to an inquiry from AFP, the group recalled it employed a law firm to investigate potential deviant practices following the publication of the first allegations against Ailes.

But according to Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters — a self-proclaimed conservative media watchdog — that process was “unreliable.”

He said investigators asked individuals to “discuss these matters in a way that could potentially be used against them in court.”

“It…

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