Wendy Walsh, a former guest commentator on “The O’Reilly Factor” and adjunct professor of psychology, appeared with her attorney Lisa Bloom on Monday to call for an independent investigation of the culture at Fox News in light of claims of sexual harassment against anchor Bill O’Reilly.
Walsh, at a press conference in Bloom’s Woodland Hills, Calif., offices, claims that early in 2013, after she had started weekly appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor,” she met O’Reilly at his invitation for dinner at the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, and talked of her prospects for getting hired as a paid contributor. She said she later refused his invite to his suite. After that, she said, O’Reilly was “hostile” to her and, in May, her weekly segments were put on hold.
Walsh said O’Reilly’s “job offer disappeared the moment I refused to accompany him to his hotel suite. His friendliness to me vanished the moment I rebuffed him.”
Walsh’s account was among those detailed in a New York Times report of multiple settlements totaling $13 million paid after sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly.
A spokeswoman for Fox News did not immediately return a request for comment.
Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox said in a statement to the Times that O’Reilly had denied “the merits of the claims” and O’Reilly said he was “vulnerable” to lawsuits as a controversial public figure.
But Bloom said that Fox News’ decision to renew O’Reilly’s contract showed that “apparently Fox News does not think that anti-discrimination laws apply to them.”
She said that although Fox tapped the law firm of Paul, Weiss to review claims last summer, at the time allegations were swirling around then-CEO Roger Ailes, and that probe was not independent.
Bloom said that the New York State Division of Human Rights had the power to initiate investigations, along with the NYC Human Rights Commission.
“Today Wendy and I call upon these agencies to initiate their own independent investigations into the culture of sexual harassment that has been widely reported to exist at Fox News, to issue findings, and to require the company to take all necessary measures to protect the rights of working women,” Bloom said.
Walsh herself is not filing a lawsuit, but would cooperate with an investigation. Bloom said she could not bring litigation because her claims are more than a year old.
Bloom warned that if O’Reilly and Fox News continued to attack Walsh, “she will have fresh claims of retaliation and vindictiveness against you, and I know where the courthouse is.”
Walsh said that her segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” was started in 2013, and she would appear from Los Angeles while another psychologist, Bonny Forrest, joined from San Diego and answered questions from O’Reilly in New York.
Three weeks after the segment started, O’Reilly’s assistant asked her to join the host in Los Angeles for dinner, and she was excited over the prospects for being offered a job.
“At the dinner, he told me that I was a very beautiful woman,” she said. “He also told me that Roger Ailes is his good friend and promised to give me a paid contributor position on his show.” But when dinner was finished and O’Reilly suggested that they go to his suite, she said, she declined. After that, his demeanor “utterly transformed from charming to hostile,” she said.
She said that O’Reilly then told her, “I want you to forget all the business advice I gave you. Do what you want. You’re on your own.”
In May of that year, when she was live on set, she said that O’Reilly ignored her and, after a bit, looked up and said, “When are you leaving?” Shortly after that, she got a call from the show’s producer that the segment was put on hold.
Walsh said that she did not pursue a claim for sexual harassment because her teenage daughter was applying to colleges and she didn’t want negative publicity to “tarnish her chances of being accepted.” She also said that she still wanted to get a paid position at the network and wanted to appear “nice, professional and non-threatening.”
Walsh’s claims come on the heels of a lawsuit filed on Monday by Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky, who said she was harassed by former Fox News chief Roger Ailes and then discriminated against in retaliation.