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Bill O'Reilly (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

Damning report

Fox News and Bill O’Reilly reportedly spent $13 million on settling harassment suits

By WITW Staff on April 3, 2017

Less than a year after Roger Ailes, former CEO of Fox News, resigned amid a flurry of sexual harassment allegations, the network’s corporate culture has once again come under scrutiny. According to a damning report in The New York Times, Fox News and its star host Bill O’Reilly have spent $13 million settling harassment lawsuits brought by five women.

The report, based on “more than five dozen interviews” and 100 pages of legal documents, states that the five women were guests or employees of O’Reilly’s popular political commentary show, The O’Reilly Factor. Between 2002 and 2016, they accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and lewd behavior –including making “phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating,” according to the Times.  

Two of the cases, brought by Fox News employees Andrea Mackris and Juliet Huddy, had previously been reported on in January. But the Times uncovered an additional three settlements, one involving an instance of verbal abuse, during which O’Reilly allegedly demeaned a producer in front of her colleagues, and two involving accusations of sexual harassment. A sixth woman, Wendy Walsh, said that O’Reilly backed out of an offer to help her secure a regular spot on Fox News after she rebuffed his advances in 2013.

“The reporting suggests a pattern,” the Times writes. “As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.”

Throughout the time that the settlements were made, O’Reilly continued to succeed as one of Fox News’ most bankable personalities. Between 2014 and 2016, his show pulled in more than $446 million in advertising revenues. O’Reilly earns a salary of $18 million per year.

21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, said in a statement that while “no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously,” the company has “looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility.”

O’Reilly also gave a statement to the Times, in which he dismissed the validity of the suits. He said that he had agreed to settle the cases to shelter his family from negative publicity associated with the claims.

“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” the statement read.

“But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.” Despite that claim, O’Reilly has hired the same crisis communications expert who worked in the Clinton White House during Bill Clinton’s intern sex scandal. In other words, as Washington Post columnist Erik Wemple puts it, O’Reilly is basically “an awful, awful man.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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