Fox Business Network’s Making Money host Charles Payne has been suspended while the network conducts an investigation into sexual harassment allegations launched from frequent on-air guest and pro-Trump pundit Scottie Nell Hughes, confirmed 21st Century Fox on Thursday night.
Payne apparently had a three-year affair with Hughes from 2013-2016. He owned up to the “romantic relationship” on Wednesday in a statement to The National Enquirer, though he strongly denies all accusations of sexual harassment.
The host’s statement also included an apology to his wife and children.
Hughes is also married.
The pro-Trump pundit, who also formerly worked at CNN, contacted a law firm representing Fox last month. According to the LA Times, Hughes had “a representative tell the firm she believed she was eventually blackballed from the network after she ended the affair in 2015 and tried to report Payne to top executives at Fox News, according to two sources familiar with her complaint.”
Hughes claims she was “coerced” into the three-year sexual relationship with Mr. Payne “under threat of reprisals,” notes the Times.
Sources tell the Times that Hughes refused to leave the affair “because she believed he would help her chances of landing a position at the network.” When she failed to gain a paid position and ended the affair, she claims her appearances on Fox Business and Fox News “were drastically reduced.”
Payne “categorically denies” all sexual harassment allegations launched against him, said a lawyer representing him, Neal Korval. Korval said his client will respond legally if a complaint is filed.
“We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy for any professional misconduct,” said a Fox Business Network spokesperson 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.”
The 56-year-old has been at Fox Business Network since its inception in 2006.