Megyn Kelly went on the offensive against Bill O’Reilly and Fox News on Monday, calling out the cabler for what she characterized as its failure to address complaints about O’Reilly’s behavior during his time at the company.
Kelly, who left Fox in January for NBC News, went so far as to single out Fox News media relations chief Irena Briganti for “vindictiveness.” Kelly alleged that Briganti has spread negative information about some women who accused the late Fox News founder and CEO Roger Ailes of harassment.
Ailes was forced out in July 2016 following a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson — an action that spurred the current wave of harassment claims against powerful media and entertainment industry figures. O’Reilly was fired in April after the New York Times detailed his history of settling harassment claims. On Saturday, the Times delivered another bombshell report about O’Reilly’s personal $32 million settlement with former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl. That settlement came one month before O’Reilly signed a new $100 million, four-year contract with Fox News.
Reps for Fox News referred a request for comment to its 21st Century Fox corporate parent.
Kelly opened Monday’s edition of her 9 a.m. “Megyn Kelly Today” talk show addressing the latest revelation of an O’Reilly sexual harassment settlement. Kelly read from an email she sent Fox News management in November 2016 complaining that O’Reilly’s comments on harassment during an appearance on “CBS This Morning” sent the wrong message to women at Fox News and elsewhere. O’Reilly said during that appearance that employees should not take steps that make their employer “look bad.” That was widely interpreted as a slam on Kelly’s inclusion of a passage in her just-released memoir “Settle for More” about sexual harassment that she faced early on from Ailes.
Kelly challenged O’Reilly’s repeated assertion that no Fox News employees ever filed complaints against him with management or the company’s human resources department. Kelly said she emailed then Fox News co-presidents Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy regarding O’Reilly’s CBS appearance.
“I wrote, in part: ‘Perhaps he didn’t realize the kind of message his criticism sends to young women across this country about how men continue to view the issue of speaking out about sexual harassment,” Kelly said. “Perhaps he didn’t realize that his exact attitude of shaming women into shutting the hell up about harassment on grounds that ‘it will disgrace the company’ is in part how Fox News got into the decade-long Ailes mess to begin with. Perhaps it’s his own history of harassment of women which has, as you both know, resulted in payouts to more than one woman, including recently, that blinded him to the folly of saying anything other than ‘I am just so sorry for the women of this company who never should have had to go through that.'”
Kelly closed her segment by taking direct aim at Briganti, a 20-year veteran of Fox News. A 21st Century Fox rep defended the executive. “Irena is a valued colleague and she has our full support,” the spokesman said.
Kelly said: “Women everywhere are used to being dismissed, ignored, or attacked when raising complaints about men in authority positions. They stay silent so often out of fear. Fear of ending their careers. Fear of lawyers, yes. And often fear of public shaming, including through the media. At Fox News, the media relations chief Irena Briganti is known for her vindictiveness. To this day, she pushes negative articles on certain Ailes accusers, like the one you’re looking at right now. It gives me no pleasure to report such news about my former employer, which has absolutely made some reforms since all of this went down. But this must stop. The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation. The silencing of them after-the-fact. It has to stop,” she said.