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Judge Denies Bill O’Reilly Effort to Keep Harassment Settlements Sealed in Lawsuit

Details of Bill O’Reilly’s harassment settlements with three woman have come to light now that a federal judge has denied O’Reilly’s request to keep the agreements sealed in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by his accusers.

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts of New York’s Southern District nixed O’Reilly’s effort to keep the settlements under seal and to force the defamation suit into private arbitration. In a ruling issued Tuesday, Batts concluded: “Defendant O’Reilly has failed to present compelling countervailing factors that could overcome the presumption of public access to the Agreements in question.”

Plaintiffs Rachel Wittlieb, Rebecca Diamond and Andrea Mackris claim that statements made during the past year by O’Reilly, Fox News parent 21st Century Fox and Fox boss Rupert Murdoch amount to defamation and a breach of the separate agreements that the three women reached with O’Reilly. The statements were made in connection with the public scrutiny O’Reilly’s history of sexual harassment settlements that began in April 2017 when the New York Times published an expose.

The three settlements were made available Wednesday as exhibits to the latest motion filed by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Neil Mullin.

The settlement documents reveal the extent to which O’Reilly and Fox demanded silence from the women in exchange for financial compensation. In the case of Mackris and Diamond, O’Reilly paid the settlements out of his own pocket. In Wittlieb’s case, Fox News kept her on its payroll, at $1364.95 a week, for 18 months after terminating her employment in July 2002.

The settlements required the three women to turn over to Fox and O’Reilly any potentially embarrassing material they had on the cabler’s former star host. Diamond’s settlement spells out the requirement that she turn over any “tapes, disks, recordings, notes, transcripts, emails, written materials, computer files or other documents or compilations of data in any form” to O’Reilly’s lawyers.

In Mackris’ case, the 2004 agreement goes so far as to compel her to deny the veracity of any O’Reilly-related materials should they somehow be made public. “Should any materials become public by any means … all parties will disclaim them as counterfeit or forgeries,” the settlement reads. Mackris’ settlement also bars her law firm, Morelli and Associates, from representing any other O’Reilly accusers. Diamond’s settlement from 2011 also prevents her from assisting those who might pursue “any other claims against O’Reilly.”

The three women maintain that the settlements were breached by a statement issued by 21st Century Fox in response to the Times’ story, in which Fox asserted that O’Reilly “denies the merits of these claims.” The complaint cites other statements from O’Reilly and remarks from Murdoch on Dec. 14, 2017, in an interview with Sky News about the sale of major 21st Century Fox assets to Disney.

The practice of requiring non-disclosure agreements as part of legal settlements has come under fire amid the wave of sexual harassment revelations during the past year. California and other states are considering legislation to restrict the use of such NDAs in cases related to sexual misconduct.

Financial details of Mackris’ settlement were not disclosed in the documents made available on Wednesday. In Diamond’s case, O’Reilly paid her $1.2 million at the outset, and $1.3 million in total to two of her attorneys. He was obligated to make three more payments of $250,000 to Diamond over a three-year period. Fox, meanwhile, paid out $4,534.34 to cover the cost of mediation efforts in the case.

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