USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers said that she complained of inappropriate comments made by Bill O’Reilly, but was told by then-Fox News chief Roger Ailes that there was nothing he could do about it because O’Reilly made too much money for the network.
Appearing on “Anderson Cooper 360” on Wednesday to talk about O’Reilly’s exit from the network amid sexual harassment allegations, Powers recalled that at the beginning of her career as a political analyst she appeared regularly on “The O’Reilly Factor” along with Margaret Hoover.
Powers told Cooper that O’Reilly’s downfall was “stunning because Bill O’Reilly was Fox News. He had so much power there and it was sort of unthinabke that he would ever leave there except on his own terms.”
She recalled one incident in which O’Reilly “got Margaret’s name wrong, and she said, ‘Hey, get my name right.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry there’s a lot of blondes in this operation, I can’t keep you all straight, Megyn Kelly is coming up.’ He starts telling all these blonde names. And then at the end of the segment he says, ‘Thank you for your blondness,” to both of us.
Powers said that she then went to O’Reilly’s executive producer and said, “He needs to apologize and he needs to never do that again, or I am not doing his show anymore.”
“And I was told basically, ‘Well, you know, Bill. He’s kind of a throwback. He’s kind of an Archie Bunker. And I said, ‘If you mean he is a Neanderthal, then we are on the same page, I am a political analyst here. So he went to Bill, came back, and said, ‘No, he’s not going to apologize.’ So I went to my boss. I was called into my boss’s office and was told, ‘There’s nothing we can do. We are sorry this happened to you.'”
Then, she said, she complained to Ailes, who resigned from the network last year amid allegations of sexual harassment.
“I was told the same exact thing. ‘There’s nothing we can do. It’s Bill. He’s a jerk. Nobody likes him.’ And then Roger said, ‘You know Bill. He likes to put up dirty pictures and ask pretty girls talk about them… And then he said, ‘What am I going to do? I don’t like him, but he makes so much money, there’s nothing I can do. That was the culture.”
She added, “This was the culture that Bill was just too big, and there was nothing you could do about it.”
Powers said that she quit his show, but returned about three years later and gave his show another try. Then, she said, “we had quite a good relationship.”
“It just spoke volumes that I had to completely handle it on my own,” Powers said. “There was no one who was willing to say to him, ‘Hey you can’t treat one of our political analysts this way.'”
She added that women of her generation “learn to tolerate” such comments. “You just come to expect this will be part of your job, and that is not OK,” she said.
“A lot of women just don’t talk about these things because if you make too much trouble, your career is over,” she added.
O’Reilly has denied the merits of other accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.
Fox News parent 21st Century Fox announced in a statement earlier on Wednesday that it was severing ties with its star host.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” the company said.