In the past year, Fox News has been at the center of two major sexual assault scandals, one involving founder Roger Ailes and the other heavy-weight host Bill O’Reilly. It was revealed by the New York Times that O’Reilly had paid out millions of dollars in settlements over his time at Fox to women at the company for alleged sexual harassment. Three of the settlements were even paid by the network itself. After the April report, O’Reilly was forced to resign as host of his show, The O’Reilly Factor, and has stayed out of the spotlight–except to support Donald Trump periodically–in the months since then.
This week, however, the New York Times dropped another bombshell report: O’Reilly paid a $32 million settlement to a woman at Fox in January, the company knew about it and then extended his contract a month later. Former network analyst Lis Wiehl was paid the settlement over allegations that O’Reilly had harassed her and initiated a ‘non-consensual sexual relationship’ with her. It was at a time when the network was working to prove they had changed their toxic office culture after the Ailes ousting. Megyn Kelly, another prominent host, had just left the network and they were desperate to keep O’Reilly for ratings.
After the month we’ve had with women coming forward everyday to accuse high-profile men of sexual harassment, the real shocker in this case isn’t that it happened (unfortunately), it’s the amount he paid out. That’s a lot of money–even for someone who’s worth $85 million–to pay out if he’s innocent.
This week, O’Reilly spoke out on several shows, including his own, about the allegations, saying that the NYT journalists timed their revelations for political reasons and that no women in his 20 years at Fox had complained to human resources about him. The NYT also released audio from earlier in the year where O’Reilly blasted the journalists who wrote about the $32 million settlement saying their ‘figures are wrong’ and that they were ‘making assumptions.’
It should be noted that in all this, he hasn’t out-right denied the claims. He’s said the Times got numbers wrong and railed at journalists for using the allegations for political gain, but he never said they were false.
On Monday, former Fox host Megyn Kelly reacted on her NBC show in a pointed monologue to O’Reilly’s claims that no women had complained about his behaviour.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 23, 2017
‘I know because I complained,’ she said. She went on to say that in November of 2016 she released a memoir that included a chapter on the culture of sexual assault within the Fox News network. When O’Reilly was asked about it at the time, he said that he was ‘not interested’ in discussing something that made his network look bad.
‘I did something that day I’ve never done before,’ Kelly continued, ‘I wrote an email to the co-presidents of FOX News… An email I have never made public, until now, because I think it speaks volumes about powerful men and the roadblocks one can face taking them on.’
— John Koblin (@koblin) October 23, 2017
After the email, Kelly says Bill Shine told her he would ‘deal with’ O’Reilly, who then proceeded to attack the victims of sexual assault at FOX again. He suggested that women who don’t like the environment or feel threatened report it or just ‘leave’–completely missing the fact that it’s exactly comments like those that silence women.
There hasn’t been any word on if there will be legal investigations into any of the O’Reilly allegations.