The suspension came after the National Enquirer on Wednesday published an article in which Payne admitted to carrying on a three-year “romantic relationship” with a married female political analyst who was a regular guest on Fox Business, and apologized to his wife, children and friends.
The Los Angeles Times, citing anonymous sources, reported Thursday afternoon that the unidentified woman had contacted Fox’s outside lawyers and alleged she was “coerced into a sexual relationship with Payne under threat of reprisals.” The woman, who worked for CNN last year, told the lawyers that she was blackballed from the network after she tried to end the relationship and report Payne to Fox News executives, according to the Times.
“We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy for any professional misconduct,” a Fox Business spokesman said in a statement to The Post. “This matter is being thoroughly investigated and we are taking all of the appropriate steps to reach a resolution in a timely manner.”
Neal Korval, an attorney for Payne, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Thursday night but told the Times that Payne “categorically denies” claims that he sexually harassed the woman.
Payne, a former Wall Street analyst, joined Fox Business as a contributor during its launch in 2007 and regularly appears as a guest on Fox News Channel shows. Last month, he re-signed a multiyear contract to continue hosting “Making Money,” which launched in 2014 and went on to become a top-rated show in the 6 p.m. time slot.
Fox has been embroiled in a string of sexual harassment scandals that started last summer when former “Fox and Friends” host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing Roger Ailes, the late Fox News chairman, of ousting her from the network when she refused his sexual advances.
Shortly after, numerous other women went public with sexual harassment claims against Ailes, who said he had done nothing wrong. Ailes was forced out in July 2016, and Fox settled Carlson’s lawsuit out of court in the fall. Ailes, 77, died in May.
Payne’s suspension came exactly one year after Carlson filed her lawsuit against Ailes. She tweeted about the case Thursday, saying she had “jumped off a cliff” without knowing what was below.
Fox critics say Carlson’s lawsuit helped expose a culture of sexual misconduct at Fox that resulted in the departure of other top people at the network.
In April, Fox News parted ways with Bill O’Reilly, one of its longest serving and most popular hosts, after the New York Times reported that five women had received a combined $15 million in settlements from O’Reilly or the network to quash sexual harassment claims. Following the Times’s story, other women came forward with harassment claims against O’Reilly, who has denied any misconduct.
Earlier this week, Jamie Horowitz, a Fox Sports executive, was abruptly dismissed from the network after the Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed source, reported that 21st Century Fox was investigating allegations of sexual harassment in the sports division. Sports Illustrated, also citing anonymous sources, reported that Horowitz himself was being investigated by Fox’s human resources department. His lawyer told The Post that Horowitz had never been warned about “misconduct or an inability to adhere to professional conduct.”