Bill O’Reilly, Fox News or parent company 21st Century Fox issued five payouts to women totaling about $13 million in exchange for them to not pursue legal action against the conservative commentator and “O’Reilly Factor” host, according to a New York Times report published Saturday.
Two of the cases were reportedly settled after former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes exited the company in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. At the time, the company issued a statement saying, “There’s absolutely no room anywhere at our company for behavior that disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.”
The women, who either worked for O’Reilly or appeared on his show, accused him of “a wide range of behavior,” according to the report, including “verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating.” One of the cases involved a former Fox News staffer allegedly berated in front of colleagues by O’Reilly.
The Times report detailed alleged efforts to intimidate some of the women from leveling complaints against O’Reilly. Some told the Times they were concerned that coming forward against O’Reilly would harm their career prospects.
Fox News declined to comment beyond the statement from 21st Century Fox.
“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,” the company said. “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.”
O’Reilly called himself a “target for those who would harm me and my employer” in a statement issued on his website on Saturday.
“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” he wrote. “Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.”
O’Reilly also wrote that in more than two decades at the company, “no one has ever filed a complaint” against him with Fox News’ human resources department.
Two of the five settlements mentioned in the New York Times expose had previously been reported. A $9 million settlement was reached in 2004 with produced Andrea Mackris, who sued the host for sexual harassment. The other was reached for $1.6 million with Juliet Huddy, who alleged that O’Reilly had pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011. Of the three additional settlements covered in the new report, two alleged sexual harassment and one claimed she was verbally abused.
O’Reilly’s lawyer, Fredric S. Newman, told the New York Times on Friday: “We are now seriously considering legal action to defend Mr. O’Reilly’s reputation.”