Bill O’Reilly Paid $32 Million To Settle Harassment Claim, Fox Offered Him Lucrative Contract Anyway
[guest post by Dana]
What on earth could have compelled former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly to cough up a whopping $32 million dollars to settle a complaint of sexual harassment against him? Oh, gosh, let’s go out on a limb here and make a wild guess: He’s guilty.
Last January, six months after Fox News ousted its chairman amid a sexual harassment scandal, the network’s top-rated host at the time, Bill O’Reilly, struck a $32 million agreement with a longtime network analyst to settle new sexual harassment allegations, according to two people briefed on the matter — an extraordinarily large amount for such cases.
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.
Despite knowing about the claim, the company still gave him a lucrative contract. After all, he brought in the ratings and kept the gravy training running. Be it the Weinstein Company or 21st Century Fox, powerful executives and leaders are too willing to look the other way as long as their predatory powerhouses keep bringing in the big money:
It was at least the sixth agreement — and by far the largest — made by either Mr. O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against him. Despite that record, 21st Century Fox began contract negotiations with Mr. O’Reilly, and in February granted him a four-year extension that paid $25 million a year.
In January, the reporting shows, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, the top executives at 21st Century Fox, made a business calculation to stand by Mr. O’Reilly despite his most recent, and potentially most explosive, harassment dispute.
Their decision came as the company was trying to convince its employees, its board and the public that it had cleaned up the network’s workplace culture. At the same time, they were determined to hold on to Mr. O’Reilly, whose value to the network increased after the departure of another prominent host, Megyn Kelly.
One might wonder why O’Reilly was let go by the company. Was it because of his moral corruption, or because 21st Century Fox wanted to protect their talent and other employees from falling victim to the cable news star, or because the company had their own moral and ethical standards to uphold, thus felt compelled to clean house? As if:
But by April, the Murdochs decided to jettison Mr. O’Reilly as some of the settlements became public and posed a significant threat to their business empire.
They let the biggest cable network star go because their dirty laundry was being aired and their bottom line might be impacted. Already the company had lost 50 advertisers and there were calls for O’Reilly to be fired. It became to risky to keep him:
In addition, federal prosecutors who had been investigating the network’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against Mr. Ailes had asked for material related to allegations involving Mr. O’Reilly, according to an internal Fox email obtained by The Times.
“Their legal theory has been that we hid the fact that we had a problem with Roger,” Gerson Zweifach, Fox’s general counsel, wrote in the email, referring to the prosecutors and Mr. Ailes, “and now it will be applied to O’Reilly, and they will insist on full knowledge of all complaints about O’Reilly’s behavior in the workplace, regardless of who settled them.”
He warned the Murdochs that they should expect details from the January settlement to become public. Six days later, Mr. O’Reilly was fired.
Despite numerous claims of sexual harassment and multiple payouts, the ousted O’Reilly was nonetheless allowed back on Fox News just last month to plug his new book on Sean Hannity’s show.
In an interview this past Wednesday, O’Reilly defended himself against the accusations:
“I never mistreated anyone,” he said, adding that he had resolved matters privately because he wanted to protect his children from the publicity.
“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.”
Journalists are pointing their fingers at the right for having been vocal in their condemnation of Harvey Weinstein but remaining silent about Bill O’Reilly. The political persuasion of such offensive individuals matters not one bit to me. For years, both powerhouses worked, to varying degree, to cultivate a public image of standing on the high ground of their respective sides of the political aisle – at least on the surface. And the public bought the illusion. Whether it was Weinstein and his sizable donations to Democrats and visible support for liberal causes and politicians, or O’Reilly and his patronizing We’re looking out for you in the no-spin zone sloganeering as he theatrically railed against the left. Yet all the while, both were masters of deception, surrounded by people who knew (or suspected) what they were really up to, yet chose to look the other way because they needed these two powerful men for financial gain and industry success. Weinstein and O’Reilly are contemptible beings. Any who would defend either of them out of of partisan loyalty reveal themselves as little more than hypocritical fools.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)