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Zainab Salbi, Kara Swisher, Tammika Mallory and Lisa Bloom onstage at the Women in the World Canada Summit. (WITW)

Busting bro culture

The inside story from the lawyer who brought down Bill O’Reilly

By WITW Staff on September 12, 2017

One of the most memorable moments onstage at the inaugural Women in the World Canada Summit on Monday was when attorney Lisa Bloom shared the inside story of how she brought down Bill O’Reilly, whose FOX News show was the highest-rated cable news program on TV.

“I knew since 2004 that he [Bill O’Reilly] was a sexual harasser, and I was shocked to learn in 2016 that he was still at it.” Bloom recounted her friend, Wendy Walsh, seeking advice from her about whether she should speak out after a New York Times reporter asked if she’d been one of the women harassed by O’Reilly.

“I said, ‘Wendy, I’ll tell you two things: If you speak out, I will represent you for free and we will take him down,'” Bloom recalled. “And that’s what we did. Watch the video above about how she lined up a trio of accusers and then deployed a well-designed legal and media strategy that resulted in O’Reilly’s swift departure from the cable news network.

Bloom was part of the “Women Busting Up the Bro Culture” panel moderated by Zainab Salbi. They were joined by Recode executive editor Kara Swisher and Tamika Mallory, a co-chair of the Women’s March. The panel took a look at the culture of unequal pay and blatant sexism women are subjected to across a variety of aspects of American life. These are three women who are unafraid to stand up to the misogynistic establishment — from Silicon Valley to the news media.

And speak up they did. Swisher, who runs one of the most respected websites that covers technology, joked about Twitter’s lack of diversity in its early days, prior to it going public. “The board of Twitter has three Peters and a Dick,” Swisher quipped, referencing Peter Fenton, Peter Currie, Peter Chernin, and then-CEO Dick Costolo. Swisher back in 2013 reported, citing an anonymous source from inside the company, that the gag was a running joke inside Twitter back then mocking the lack of diversity at the social media startup.

Mallory also talked about men trying to lecture her and her colleagues on how to organize a major march on Washington back when the idea was still taking shape. “We had men calling us and saying, ‘You can’t do this. You don’t know what you’re doing. You all are not capable of putting on something of this magnitude,'” Mallory said. She added that some of these men called saying they’d already applied for permits for the Women’s March, and suggested that they should be brought on immediately to help pull the march together.

“I think for us, what we said is, first, ‘We’re qualified!'” Mallory recalled. “And second of all, ‘We’re just gonna show you.'” She added, “And then five million people marched across the world.”

Near the end of the panel, Bloom crystallized the purpose of her life’s work into a pithy slogan. “I’m a professional feminist. I smash the patriarchy for a living,” she said, punctuating the remark later on in a post on Twitter. Bloom added that she understands why some women “don’t sign up to be feminist firebrands. But, when our time comes, we have to stand up.”

Watch the full panel and complete highlights below.

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