UPDATED with statement from O’Reilly lawyer: If freshly resigned Donald Trump attorney John Dowd suddenly needs some work, here’s a blossoming case: Another former Fox News staffer is suing FNC’s ousted one-time star Bill O’Reilly for defamation arising from statements he made following his April 19 firing from the cable news network.
The case arose from a year-old New York Times article that alleged he paid off women who accused him of sexual harassment. Among the claims in that report was that O’Reilly settled with Laurie Dhue for “over $1 million.” In her lawsuit, Dhue — who was at Fox News from 2000-08 — says she was defamed as part of a “smear campaign” by O’Reilly, when the former host of The O’Reilly Factor issued a news release after his termination that said it “is tremendously disheartening that we [Fox News and O’Reilly] part ways due to completely unfounded claims.”
In the suit filed today in New York District Court (read it here), she claims: “As part of his desperate campaign to clear his name, O’Reilly published false statements about Dhue—as well as the other women—calling her a liar, swearing that her allegations were fabricated in an effort to obtain a settlement, falsely asserting that her purported claims against O’Reilly were politically motivated, and lying by saying that he only paid settlements to avoid having his family go through litigation, not because he had engaged in the claimed sexual misconduct.”
O’Reilly’s attorney responded to the suit today. “Dhue’s filing has absolutely no merit,” Fredric Newman said in a statement to Deadline. “Mr. O’Reilly has never mentioned Dhue, and any attention she has received has been the result of her own actions. Mr. O’Reilly will defend himself in court fully and aggressively against all unfounded, opportunistic claims, and he will seek all appropriate legal remedies as well.”
Dhue’s suit comes on the heels of one filed in December by former Fox News producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein that claims O’Reilly defamed her and also breached a 2002 settlement agreement they struck over harassment Bernstein endured from O’Reilly. Two other women, Andrea Mackris and Rebecca Gomez Diamond, joined that lawsuit weeks later. They, like Witlieb Bernstein, had entered into settlement agreements stemming from alleged sexual harassment from O’Reilly and allege that he violated those settlements by speaking publicly about the accusations.
The Times piece from April 1 revealed O’Reilly and FNC paid out around $13 million to blunt lawsuits arising from his actions over the years.
“O’Reilly’s false statements amounted to allegations that Dhue and the other women had committed the crime of extortion,” the new lawsuit reads. “Each of O’Reilly’s slanderous statements constitutes defamation per se.
Attorneys John G. Balestriere Jillian L. McNeil and Brian L. Grossman of Balestriere Fariello in Manhattan are representing Dhue in the suit, which seeks compensatory, reputational and punitive damages and demands a jury trial.