A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a defamation lawsuit from a former Fox News producer whose allegations contributed to Bill O’Reilly’s ouster in 2017.
Rachel Witlieb Bernstein left the network in 2002, following an incident in which O’Reilly allegedly screamed at her. Bernstein received a confidential settlement, and her case was among several that were covered in a New York Times article in April 2017, which led to O’Reilly’s firing.
Following his ouster, O’Reilly gave interviews in which he said he had been the target of a “political and financial hit job.” Bernstein filed a defamation suit in December 2017, in which she accused O’Reilly and the network of disparaging her. She accused the network of issuing a misleading statement, in which it claimed that no employees had taken advantage of an HR hotline without stating that the hotline was not in place at the time of her employment.
In her ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts held that Bernstein had failed to establish that she suffered any actual harm from O’Relly or Fox’s comments.
“She neither explains how her losses flowed from the alleged defamation nor alleges any facts establishing what, if any, emotional and physical harms and reputational damage she specifically suffered,” Batts wrote. “She also does not allege the economic or pecuniary value of her alleged damages.”
Bernstein’s attorneys had also taken issue with statements made by Rupert Murdoch, in which the Fox News chairman said the harassment charges against the network were “nonsense,” and that accusers had come forward due to political motivations.
Batts held that Bernstein could not demonstrate that Murdoch was talking about her.
“Clearly, each statement that Plaintiff attributes to the Fox Defendants cannot plausibly be defamatory,” Batts wrote.
Bernstein had also accused O’Reilly and the network of breaching the confidentiality agreement in her settlement. Again, Batts held that Bernstein had not shown she was harmed by the alleged breach.
The judge allowed Bernstein to amend and refile her suit against O’Reilly, but not against Fox, finding that that would be “futile.”