In a lawsuit filed today in federal court, a woman who signed a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint against former Fox News Channel anchor Bill O’Reilly in 2002 called him a “serial abuser” and claims he violated the agreement numerous times over the past several months.
The lawsuit, filed in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, also claims Fox News, which is also listed as a defendant, has not been telling the truth when it claimed that no complaints had ever been made against O’Reilly.
The petition claims Rachel Witleib Bernstein “repeatedly complained to Fox Human Resources, Bill Shine and other Fox executives about Mr. O’Reilly’s mistreatment.” The lawsuit also charges O’Reilly and Fox News with defamation.
O’Reilly began violating the contract and defaming Bernstein when news surfaced this year in an April 1, 2017 New York Times article about Fox News’ payment of $13 million to settle harassment claims made by five women, including Bernstein, against O’Reilly, according to the lawsuit.
The Times article quoted O’Reilly as saying, “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity.”
On April 21, O’Reilly issued a statement on his website, which was also published verbatim by Hollywood Reporter, that claimed he settled such lawsuits instead of fighting them because that might bring harm to his children.
“The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel.”
The lawsuit claims Fox News violated the confidentiality agreement on April 1 when it issued a statement claiming “no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously.”
The petition challenges O’Reilly’s claim that he is a target.
“In fact, he is a serial abuser.”
O’Reilly continued violating the confidentiality agreement after the New York Times October 21 revelation that Fox had settled a sexual harassment complaint by former analyst Lis Wiehl for $32 million, according to the lawsuit.
It was not long after the $32 million payment that Fox News signed O’Reilly to a four-year, $25 million a year contract, which was also revealed by the Times. After that, Fox severed ties with O’Reilly and he began a public campaign to show that he was the one who was being maligned.
During a book tour in October, O’Reilly accused Bernstein and the other women who had reached settlements with him of trying to ruin his career with “a political and financial hit job.”
Bernstein is asking for damages, punitive damages, costs, and attorney fees.