Update The Wall St. Journal is reporting that Bill O’Reilly is keeping his post at Fox News, and that both sides recently renewed his contract despite knowledge of today’s New York Times story. The Journal and Fox News are siblings under parent Rupert Murdoch.
Though Fox News declined to confirm on the Murdoch-owned WSJ report, a source with knowledge of the situation said that O’Reilly had indeed re-upped with the cable newser. Details on the specifics of what is certainly a multi-million, multi-year deal were not available.
Previous A scalding New York Times report today claims Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has cost the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, millions of dollars in sexual harassment settlements, including two that followed the departure last summer of chairman Roger Ailes, himself accused of multiple cases of harassment. Payments total $13 million, with Fox picking up the tab for three of the suits, and O’Reilly for two.
O’Reilly, host of The O’Reilly Factor, posted a response on his website, saying, in part, “In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.” Though he does not deny that the settlements were made, he notes, “The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel.”
O’Reilly, reported to make an annual salary of $18 million, paid one of the women, producer Andrea Mackris, $9 million in 2004, the largest single amount, according to the Times.
See O’Reilly’s full statement below.
The Times report by Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt follows their investigation that found five women “who have received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him.”
According to the Times, the five women either worked for O’Reilly or appeared on his show, and “have complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating.”
“The reporting suggests a pattern: 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.”
Two of the five settlements were previously known, including the $9 million in 2004 with a producer and last year’s settlement with on-air personality Juliet Huddy. The other three, uncovered by The Times, include two sexual harassment claims and one case in which O’Reilly verbally berated “a young producer in front of newsroom colleagues.”
In a written statement to The Times, 21st Century Fox said:
“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously. Notwithstanding the fact that 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, we have 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. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”
Here’s O’Reilly’s statement:
Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.
Contacted by Deadline, a spokesperson for Fox News said the company would have no further comment.
The Times article emphasizes the “enormous” value of O’Reilly to Fox News, ascribing a figure of $446 million to ad revenue his show generated from 2014 through 2016. “This is a sensitive time for Fox News as it continues to deal with the fallout of the Ailes scandal,” the article states. “The network is facing an investigation by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is looking into how the company structured settlements. Fox News has said that neither it nor 21st Century Fox has received a subpoena but that they have ‘been in communication with the U.S. attorney’s office for months.'”
Details of the allegations against O’Reilly and the company’s reponses, the Times writes, are based on “more than five dozen interviews” with current and former employees, people close to O’Reilly and the women. “Most spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation. The Times also examined more than 100 pages of documents and court filings related to the complaints.”