Emily Steel, a 33-year-old journalist at The New York Times, is being credited as the woman who “took down” Bill O’Reilly, after her explosive investigative piece (along with colleague Michal S. Schmidt) into settlements for sexual assault allegations led to an advertisers’ boycott and the eventual firing of the controversial Fox News anchor. It wasn’t the first time she had crossed swords with O’Reilly either. Two years ago he threatened to come after her “with everything I have” after she started writing about some false claims the host had made about his coverage of the Falklands War in the 1980s. But that was not the reason she started looking into the sexual harassment scandals at Fox News, she says in an interview with Marie Claire. “We did not do this story to be vindictive, or even to take him down. That wasn’t our purpose. Our purpose was to tell these women’s stories, to expose his history, and to show how the company had protected him.”
Steel describes hours of research, phone calls and digging to eventually uncover the details surrounding five settlements that the Fox host made with women who had accused him of sexual harassment or other forms of abuse.”The message I was trying to send was that we needed people to talk,” Steel says. “This is an important story to tell, and in order to tell it we needed sources and we needed to see documents. We needed to be able to back it up. We knew that Fox and O’Reilly would really fight back, so it needed to be as strong and as solid as possible.” Her reporting showed how difficult it still is for women who face sexual harassment at work to speak out, out of fear for retaliation and other unintended consequences. Nevertheless, the fact that O’Reilly was out of a job fairly quickly after the story was published, shows that times might be changing after all. “I feel like when this story broke, and Trump defended him soon after, there were a lot of women, and men too, who said, ‘No. This isn’t how we treat women. And we’re not going to stand for it.'” Even the main source in her story, the one woman who could actually speak about the allegations on the record, was reluctant to do so. But Steel deployed some clever tactics that ultimately gave the source the confidence to go on the record with her.
Read the full story at Marie Claire.