• Federal judge also narrows 2017 lawsuit by Scottie Nell Hughes • She claims in suit company ignored attack by Fox anchor

A federal judge ordered 21st Century Fox Inc. to defend a lawsuit by a former Fox News panelist who claimed she was raped by a longtime anchor and that her complaint was ignored by the company.

The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan is a blow to Fox as it confronts a series of allegations of sexual harassment by former employees. While narrowing the suit by Scottie Nell Hughes, the judge said she had alleged enough facts for some of her claims to move forward. Pauley didn’t rule on the merits while denying Fox’s bid to dismiss the case in its entirely.

Fox News previously called the lawsuit a “publicity stunt” that has no merit and “is downright shameful.”

Hughes claims that after she reported Payne’s July 2013 assault to an outside law firm investigating sexual harassment at the network in late June, she became a victim of a public-relations smear campaign.

Her name was leaked to the National Enquirer and the tabloid was given a “self-serving statement,” allegedly drafted by Payne, in which he expressed his sorrow at having engaged in an affair with Hughes, according to the complaint.

(Updates with details of ruling.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan atcdolmetsch@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net Paul Cox