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Despite lawsuit, a Hughes may run for Congress

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Scotty Hughes

Despite the filing of an explosive federal lawsuit last week in which she claims she was raped by Fox Business host Charles Payne and smeared publicly by the network after reporting the assault to them, Hendersonville resident Scottie Hughes said Tuesday she hasn't ruled out a bid for public office.

Hughes told several news organizations in June that she would consider a bid for U.S. Rep. Diane Black's District 6 seat should Black decide to run for governor. Black announced Aug. 2 she's running for the state's top spot.

Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma and former Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner John Rose have both said they're running in the Republican primary next August for the District 6 seat.

On Tuesday Hughes told the Hendersonville Standard that she is still considering running, and added that her husband Chris is also considering a bid.

"There is still the option," said Hughes, "but there's also the option of Chris as well."

A former Sumner County Commissioner, Chris Hughes was elected Republican state executive committeeman in 2014.

Lawsuit alleges rape

It's unclear however, how a lawsuit filed by Scottie Hughes in U.S. District Court Sept. 18 will play out with voters.

A political commentator and early Donald Trump supporter, Hughes appeared on numerous Fox News and Fox Business Network shows from 2013 to 2016.

In the lawsuit, Hughes says she confidentially informed lawyers hired by Fox in late June 2017 that she had been raped and sexually assaulted by Payne in 2013.

Shortly after reporting the rape, according to the suit, a Fox spokesperson leaked Hughes' name to a National Enquirer reporter along with a statement from Payne indicating that the two had a consensual relationship. Emails between the two were also leaked to the media, according to the lawsuit.

"The latest publicity stunt of a lawsuit filed by Doug Wigdor has absolutely no merit and is downright shameful," said Fox News in a written statement. "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."

Wigdor released his own statement.

"Fox cannot spin its way out of this crisis - especially when only Fox is to blame for what happened," he said. "Regardless of the fact that the sexual assault and rape, as alleged, happened in 2013, the events exposing Fox's liability exposure (as opposed to Payne) occurred less than two months ago when Fox Executives at the highest levels leaked Ms. Hughes's name to a tabloid. The 'representatives' that Fox refers to in its statement include her agent and a lawyer not admitted in New York, so the suggestion that Ms. Hughes was shopping for a lawyer, is yet another desperate attempt at avoiding the real issues and blaming the victim. Sadly, nothing has changed at Fox."

Fox has been plagued by numerous claims of sexual harassment at the network including those that lead to the May, 2017 exit of Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.

'Shocked and ashamed'

According to Hughes' lawsuit, she and Payne first met in the spring of 2013 when they appeared as panelists on Fox programs Hannity and Cavuto. Hughes says that Payne expressed a romantic interest from the beginning and suggested he could help her with her career. In July, she says she accepted his invitation to go with him to a New York museum. After refusing each time when the host asked for her hotel room information, Hughes says she finally relented.

Payne then pressured his way into her hotel room, sexually assaulted and raped her, the lawsuit alleges.

"Too shocked and ashamed to speak out, she told no one what happened," it says.

Hughes said the invitations for her to appear on Payne's show increased dramatically after the incident, and that she was coerced into a sexual relationship in exchange for career opportunities and benefits and the promise of a contributor contract.

When she broke off the relationship in June 2015, Hughes said she went from appearing on Fox shows four out of five nights a week to five times over a 10-month period. In 2017, Hughes said she learned that Fox had deemed her "unbookable" after being turned down for several positions in the Trump administration.

Hughes is suing on the grounds of gender discrimination, retaliation and defamation and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Payne "vehemently denies any wrongdoing and will defend himself vigorously against this baseless complaint," said his attorney, Jonathan Halpern. "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."

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