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Fox Business Suspends Anchor Charles Payne Amid Harassment Investigation

Charles Payne, who has anchored programs on Fox Business Network since its launch in the middle of last decade, has been suspended from his duties at the 21st Century Fox owned cable-news outlet as the company investigates sexual harassment allegations made against him.

A Fox Business spokesperson said Payne had been “suspended pending further investigation” after being asked about allegations that surfaced previously in The Los Angeles Times. “We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy for any professional misconduct. This matter is being thoroughly investigated and we are taking all of the appropriate steps to reach a resolution in a timely manner,” the network said in a statement.

A female political analyst who has appeared on Fox News as well as CNN has contacted the law firm of Paul Weiss, which has been working for Fox for several months, alleging she was banned from Fox after ending an extramarital affair she had with the anchor in 2015, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times. An attorney for Payne told the Times the anchor denied sexually harassing the woman. The analyst alleged her Fox appearances were reduced after she terminated the relationship.

The allegations are the latest to surface about sexual harassment within the operations of Fox News Channel, the popular cable-news unit that fuels the economics of its parent. Since former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit last year alleging former Fox News chief Roger Ailes had harassed her, a number of contributors and staffers have turned to the courts. Fox News at present faces a number of legal matters alleging harassment or racial discrimination. Since Ailes’ departure, a number of senior executives at the unit have also left. Bill Shine, a longtime producer who rose to become co-president, departed in May. Bill O’Reilly, the veteran primetime anchor, left the network in April after a New York Times report disclosed he had made settlements to women who had alleged unwelcome behavior.

Ailes denied the allegations made against him while O’Reilly said his fame made him a target and that he made payments to protect his family.

Fox News has worked internally to try to improve its internal culture. The company has put new human-resources policies in place and instilled several female executives in senior roles.

But the revelations around Payne suggest the company faces more disclosure about past behavior. 21st Century Fox remains under scrutiny as it strives to acquire the remaining shares in European broadcaster Sky PLC that it does not own and its bid is examined by British government regulators. Proving that the company has taken steps to improve its working culture could serve to curtail criticism as its effort to buy Sky gains further scrutiny. Earlier this week, Fox Sports dismissed programming chief Jamie Horowitz, citing an investigation into claims of sexual harassment.

British communications regular Ofcom said last week it was convinced senior Fox News executives were not aware of harassment before complaints about Ailes were heard. The regulator ” has considered allegations of sexual and racial harassment at Fox News that are extremely serious and disturbing. It seems clear that there were significant failings of the corporate culture at Fox News,” Ofcom said in a recent report. “In order to have a concern about fitness and properness, we would need to see evidence of misconduct in the parent company, Fox. However, we have no clear evidence that senior executives at Fox were aware of misconduct before it was escalated to them in July 2016, after which action was taken.”

Payne has anchored “Making Money” at 6 p.m. on Fox Business. A rotating group of hosts are expected to fill in for him during his absence.

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