UPDATE, 10:40 AM: Two additional former Fox News employees have joined a defamation suit against Fox News and Bill O’Reilly filed earlier this month. The three women claim that O’Reilly violated confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements.
Andrea Mackris and Rebecca Gomez Diamond joined the defamation suit today. They, like Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, had entered into settlement agreements stemming from alleged sexual harassment from O’Reilly, and now say O’Reilly violated those settlements by speaking publicly about the accusations.
As one would expect, O’Reilly’s lawyers are on the offense in their defense.
“The latest filing has absolutely no merit as we will show in court,” says Fredric S. Newman of Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney in a statement. “Adding more plaintiffs does not cure the deficiencies in Bernstein’s complaint. The plaintiffs have drawn more attention to themselves than Mr. O’Reilly ever did. For example, Andrea Mackris invited a New York Times photographer into her home for the April 1st story, even though she had publicly declared that ‘there was no wrongdoing whatsoever by Mr. O’Reilly’. Mr. O’Reilly never mentioned any of the plaintiffs, but now he has no choice but to litigate fully and aggressively.
That last line is a real surprise, isn’t it? Would never have used the word “aggressively” in relation to Bill O’Reilly, would have you?
Represented by the same law firm that stood with Gretchen Carlson last summer in her ultimately successful sexual harassment action against Ailes and FNC, former Fox News producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein is taking the defendants to court for defamation and breaching the 2002 settlement agreement struck over harassment Bernstein endured from O’Reilly.
Arising out of the New York Times piece in April that revealed O’Reilly and FNC paid out around $13 million to blunt lawsuits over the now-fired host’s actions over the years, Bernstein’s complaint in federal court in the Empire State calls BS on the immediate response and the one that followed this fall after more revelations of big O’Reilly payouts came out.
“Defendant O’Reilly portrayed himself as a ‘target’ and claimed that complaints against him arc extortionate,” the suit seeking $75,000-plus in damages says of O’Reilly’s widely published pushback statements after the NYT article and the news of another $32 million settlement was made public in October. “This is false,” the fling adds. “ln fact, he is a serial abuser and Ms. Bernstein’s complaints about him were far from extortionate” (read it here).
“In fact, Mr. O’Reilly is the liar,” the paperwork from lawyers Neil Mullin and Nancy Erika Smith bluntly states. “He mistreated Ms. Bernstein. She was forced out of her job al Fox News and paid a settlement because of his mistreatment. She did go to HR and other company executives to complain about him several times. Fox News took no action to protect plaintiff from O’Reilly. There were many witnesses to her mistreatment. She was not politically or financially motivated to raise the claims of abuse.”
The suit adds: “Plaintiff did complain in person to Fox HR, Bill Shine and other Fox executives about O’Reilly’s abuse. Others at Fox confirmed Ms. Bernstein’s complaints. Fox News made deliberate and false claims that ‘no one complained’ in order to bolster the false statements of O’Reilly that all of O’Reilly’s victims made up their claims.”
In a statement on the suit and the confidentiality clause the plaintiffs seemingly trampled all over, Mullin said Monday: “Knowing Ms. Bernstein and O’Reilly’s other victims are afraid to speak out because he and Fox forced them to sign non-disclosure agreements, O’Reilly and Fox have made false and disparaging claims,” “They should release all victims from their NDAs and let the truth out. It is cowardly to publicly attack these women knowing they have been subjected to contractual provisions requiring absolute silence.”
“Bill O’Reilly has never mentioned the plaintiff’s name publicly in any context,” said the old Factor host’s lawyer Fredric S. Newman today after Bernstein’s suit was filed. “And as the original New York Times story makes clear, this was absolutely not a case of sexual harassment. So today’s lawsuit has absolutely no merit, and Mr. O’Reilly will respond aggressively in court.”
Reps for FNC did not reply to request for comment on the suit. Bernstein now works for Conan O’Brien’s Conaco production company. Under a flood of sexual harassment allegations that he still denies despite several settlements and accusations, O’Reilly was pink slipped by FNC after over two decades on April 19 this year.
Citing harm to Bernstein’s reputation, “severe emotional distress, physical sickness, and loss of income,” the complaint drills into the specific violations that it alleges both O’Reilly and FNC committed.
“Defendants Fox and O’Reilly materially breached the Agreement by making statements other than the agreed-upon statement and by issuing false, disparaging and defamatory statements,” the 14-page jury trial seeking four count complaint asserts. “Defendants knew that plaintiff was forced by defendants to sign the non- disparagement and confidentiality clauses and would be able to answer defendants’ false, disparaging and defamatory statements,” it says. “Fox News breached its contract with plaintiff by allowing and authorizing its employee Bill O’Reilly to disparage and defame Ms. Bernstein and to make statements other than those to which the parties agreed.”
This latest suit joins the literally dozens that have spawn out of the culture that pervaded FNC and O’Reilly himself, who has sued more than a few people too.