According to The New York Times, Bill O’Reilly paid $32 million to settle a sexual harassment suit by Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl shortly before Fox News renewed his contract.
This latest news of a settlement is remarkable for several reasons: one, it’s an unusually large amount; two, it came well after Fox had promised to change its treatment of women in the wake of CEO Roger Ailes' ouster in July, 2016; and three, Fox nevertheless renewed O’Reilly’s contract in February.
From the Times' bombshell report published today:
Although the deal has not been previously made public, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly. They included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter.
The Times notes that at the same time Fox was claiming it had cleaned up its culture, the network “made a business calculation to stand by Mr. O’Reilly.” Partly, that was because Megyn Kelly had just announced her decision to leave the network. Parent company 21st Century Fox apparently washed its hands of the messiness by calling it a "personal" matter between O'Reilly and Wiehl.
In a statement, 21st Century Fox said it was not privy to the amount of the settlement and regarded Mr. O’Reilly’s January settlement, which was reached with a 15-year Fox News analyst named Lis Wiehl, as a personal issue between the two of them.
As for O’Reilly, he’s still playing the victim:
“It’s politically and financially motivated,” he said of the public outcry over the allegations against him, “and we can prove it with shocking information, but I’m not going to sit here in a courtroom for a year and a half and let my kids get beaten up every single day of their lives by a tabloid press that would sit there, and you know it.”
“This is horrible, it’s horrible what I went through, horrible what my family went through,” Mr. O’Reilly said in a raised voice at the end of the interview with The Times. “This is crap, and you know it.”
O’Reilly claimed the sexually explicit material he sent Wiehl was part of threatening material he received and forwarded to her, in her role as his attorney, in order to evaluate whether legal action was warranted. However, the Times also notes that O’Reilly made suggestive remarks to Wiehl on the air.
So the next time you see someone like Tucker Carlson tweeting, “Everybody knew what Weinstein was up to for years and years and nobody spoke up,” do tweet back and ask, “Where were you during all the sexual harassment at Fox News?”
(Bill O'Reilly graphic by Nina Brodsky)
Fox seemed to have the attitude that Bill’s behavior was the cost of doing business with him and as long as he made them a profit, all was forgiven. Once the advertisers bailed on him in April, then Fox suddenly discovered a new set of morals.
If and when Bill returns anywhere you can bet that the network willing to hire him will do a research, not from the public, his fan base will stay loyal to him as long as it’s not a minor, but from potential future advertisers to gauge fear the risk of backlash and damage to their products.
The reality is that it was an open situation at Fox News for the women to be harassed by the men – it was built into the culture of the place. And the example was set by Roger Ailes, who got away with the most ridiculous of behavior without any consequences. So it was natural that Bill O’Reilly would get in on the fun, and that others at the network would follow that path. It shouldn’t be a surprise that in such an environment, Eric Bolling thought he could get away with smugly inappropriate statements made toward female co-workers or with sending them sexually explicit texts. Nor should it be a surprise that Tamara Holder was physically attacked by a Fox News exec.
I agree with the statements made about Weinstein – he acted like a pig, and he deserves the brickbats he is currently receiving. But nobody at Fox News has any moral ground on which to stand if they’re going to join in the pile-on. And just because Weinstein is a pig does not mean that Bill O’Reilly isn’t.