UPDATED, 4:55 PM: The three women who are suing former Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly for defamation today filed court papers (read the docs here) opposing his motion to have the case dismissed or at least arbitrated in private. Nancy Erika Smith, one of the lawyers for Rebecca Gomez Diamond, Andrea Mackris and Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, said of O’Reilly: “Now he wants his victims to submit to arbitration, so he can avoid publicly defending those indefensible statements.” According to the filing (read it here), by acting as though no arbitration agreement exists, O’Reilly waived any right to compel arbitration of the women’s defamation claims.
PREVIOUSLY, March 30: Three women are seeking to include 21st Century Fox in their defamation suit against Bill O’Reilly, claiming the media giant continues to promote and maintain the profile of the former Fox News host, and provide him a platform, even after forcing him out.
The women all signed confidential settlements with Fox and O’Reilly over claims of misconduct, in which all parties agreed not to discuss what transpired or say anything derogatory. Their stories became public in a New York Times article about sexual harassment settlement against the top-rated cable news hot, even though they say they were not the sources of the information.
The suit, filed last December, accuses O’Reilly of violating these non-disparagement clauses, and of defaming the three women by asserting that their claims were “unfounded” and that he is a victim of a “smear campaign” by liberal opponents who’ve subjected him to a “brutal campaign of character assassination.”
O’Reilly and Fox News are trying to get the case dismissed or moved to arbitration.
The women — Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, Andrea Mackris and Rebecca Gomez Diamond — are now asking the court to add 21st Century Fox to their suit, noting it completely controls Fox News and has directed the public relations and legal strategies in dealing with sexual harassment allegations.
21st Century Fox statement, issued on the same day as the Times reported a $32 million settlement with a longtime network analyst, claimed no women had complained about O’Reilly’s conduct.
Bernstein says, in court documents, that she complained repeatedly to human resources about O’Reilly’s mistreatment. Mackris and Diamond said they raised the issue of harassment through their lawyers, but that no investigation was conducted.
“By making false statements that none of the plaintiffs (members of a small identifiable group) complained,” the court document argues. “O’Reilly, Fox News and 21st Century Fox disparaged and defamed them, portraying them as liars and extortionists who have concocted complaints and never gave the company the opportunity to investigate them in a timely way.”
Court documents note O’Reilly remains under contract to Fox, even though he was taken off the air as host of his own cable show on April 19, 2017. The women claim Fox and Fox News continue to promote and maintain his profile by allowing its on-air hosts to provide a platform for O’Reilly.
As recently as last September, O’Reilly was a guest on Fox Anchor Sean Hannity’s radio show where he once again portrayed himself as a victim who has been falsely accused of sexual harassment and the target of a progressive campaign to get him off the air.
The women argue, in court documents, that Fox News promotes Hannity’s podcasts, radio show and website — making it the publisher of these statements. Therefore, they argue, the network and parent 21st Century Fox are liable for statements they say are defamatory.