Former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly allegedly paid an FNC contributor $32 million to settle a sexual harassment complaint, according to what unnamed sources told the New York Times. O’Reilly has responded that the Times is smearing him in attempt to prevent him from resuming his career in the media industry.
This alleged and newly revealed (if true) settlement that occurred in January 2017 is in addition to the Times report in April that the host of The O’Reilly Factor or his then-employer supposedly paid out approximately $13 million to settle sexual harassment complaints from five women.
The Times summarized the accusations that allegedly led to this big-ticket settlement.
“Although the deal has not been previously made public, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly. They included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter.”
One month after the alleged $32 million settlement, Fox News signed Bill O’Reilly to a new, four-year contract that paid him $25 million a year, the Times added.
History has shown that things quickly changed after the April Times scoop, and advertisers started bailing on The O’Reilly Factor in droves. The Murdoch family, particularly the Murdoch sons who are said to be more politically liberal than their dad, Rupert, the chairman and CEO of News Corp. and acting Fox News CEO, decided to part ways on April 19 with their longtime top-rated anchor, a divorced father of two, while he was on vacation in Rome.
In an interview with Today show host Matt Lauer on September 19, O’Reilly insisted that he never mistreated anyone during his entire career in the media industry. O’Reilly also told Lauer that he thought the decision to show him the door was prompted by business reasons; he might have been alluding, in part, to the ongoing efforts by the Murdochs to convince British regulators to allow them to take 100 percent control of the Sky News television network in the U.K.
“In a statement, 21st Century Fox said it was not privy to the amount of the settlement and regarded Mr. O’Reilly’s January settlement, which was reached with a 15-year Fox News analyst named Lis Wiehl, as a personal issue between the two of them,” the Times noted. Wiehl is a former federal prosecutor who regularly appeared on The O’Reilly Factor and other FNC shows to discuss legal issues in the headlines.
Tucker Carlson Tonight subsequently took over the prestigious 8 p.m. Eastern time platform where The Factor formerly aired and has been thriving in the ratings.
O’Reilly has also maintained that left-wing activists were responsible for his dismissal from Fox News.
In a statement posted to his website today, the news anchor described the Times report as a malicious smear, adding that Wiehl retracted any allegations against him in a sworn affidavit.
“The Times ignored that evidence, sworn under oath, and chose to rely on unsubstantiated allegations, anonymous sources and incomplete leaked or stolen documents,” he added. As he has done previously, O’Reilly asserted that over his 20-year Fox News career, no one ever went to HR with a complaint about him.
O’Reilly also claimed that the Times report in April contained “inaccurate settlement figures,” but confidentiality agreements prevent him from correcting the record.
“In its latest diatribe against Bill O’Reilly, the Times printed leaked information provided by anonymous sources that is out of context, false, defamatory, and obviously designed to embarrass Bill O’Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace.”
The Bill O’Reilly website also posted the purported Lis Wiehl sworn affidavit dated January 17, 2017, which reads in part.
“At the end of 2016, I hired counsel who prepared a draft complaint asserting claims against Bill O’Reilly. We have since resolved all of our issues. I would no longer make the allegations contained in the draft complaint…”
Lis Wiehl also noted that she acted as O’Reilly’s lawyer from time to time, and that Bill forwarded her “certain explicit emails” that he had received, and that any advice she gave him was protected by attorney-client privilege. She also stated that she was making no claims about the emails. The affidavit also indicates that Wiehl is no longer employed by Fox News and has no claims against the network.
“The disclosure of the new settlement is likely to derail any hopes O’Reilly had of making a television comeback,” the Los Angeles Times observed.
Fox News also told the L.A. Times that when it renewed O’Reilly’s contract, it was aware that O’Reilly had entered into a confidential settlement with Lis Wiehl over a threatened lawsuit for an unspecified amount.
The alleged Bill O’Reilly $32 million sexual harassment settlement is a developing story, so watch this space for updates.
[Featured Image by Richard Drew/AP Images]