I’m not sure who – if anyone – still cares about Bill O’Reilly, but here we go. O’Reilly got taken down for good cause earlier this year, when the New York Times spilled the tea about just how many women O’Reilly and Fox News had paid off over the years. These women were all victims of harassment and abuse at the hands (and falafel) of O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and more. O’Reilly and Ailes seemed to be biggest culprits of Fox News’ Harassment Emporium, and O’Reilly’s systemic harassment of female Fox employees had cost Fox News corporate millions of dollars in under-the-radar settlements. Well, it turns out that O’Reilly’s inability to treat women with respect also cost him a lot personally – O’Reilly had to pay one woman $32 million out of his own pocket. Yikes.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that in January, Bill O’Reilly paid $32 million to settle a previously undisclosed allegation of sexual harassment, just weeks before he agreed to a new contract with Fox News that would pay him $25 million a year. According to the Times, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, was aware of the allegations and settlement, but the company says it was not aware the settlement amount.
The star anchor was dismissed in April amid widespread public outrage after the Times revealed that he and Fox News had paid about $13 million in settlements to bury numerous similar allegations over the years. O’Reilly has dismissed all the charges as baseless, telling the Times that they are “politically and financially motivated.”
In a statement, O’Reilly spokesperson Mark Fabiani dismissed Saturday’s Times report as “false, defamatory, and obviously meant to embarrass Bill O’Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace.”
The Times reports that the newly disclosed case centered around O’Reilly and Lis Wiehl, a former Fox legal analyst who periodically appeared as a guest on The O’Reilly Factor and co-hosted his radio show for a time. Wiehl claimed that she had been subject to a pattern of behavior that included “harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her,” according to people familiar with the settlement. O’Reilly said that Wiehl was one of his lawyers, and that he had forwarded explicit messages from viewers to her as part of an effort to vet threats against him.
In 2006, Media Matters reported that O’Reilly routinely made inappropriate comments to and about Wiehl during their radio show, labeling her “eye candy” and calling for a “full body search” of his co-host. Despite the lurid details — and the (at least) five other harassment claims that had been settled in previous years — Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan reportedly made a “business calculation” to retain O’Reilly, their biggest star at the time, in January.
The money involved in O’Reilly’s case is also exceptional; the $32 million O’Reilly dished out eclipsed the $20 million paid to Gretchen Carlson in her settlement against Roger Ailes and singlehandedly dwarfed the amount of the five other publicly known settlements pertaining to claims against O’Reilly.
Since his dismissal, O’Reilly’s media profile has dimmed, though he continues to broadcast his hard-edged political opinions from home, and recently published the latest installment in his bestselling Killing series. O’Reilly hasn’t exactly been exiled from Fox News either — he recently appeared on Sean Hannity’s show, where he lamented not fighting harder to keep his job. When the charges against him first appeared, O’Reilly also found an ally in fellow alleged groper President Trump, who said “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person.”
Even if you’re prone to give abusers and serial harassers the benefit of the doubt in these kinds of situations, the money involved points to the fact that O’Reilly made this woman’s life a living hell. You don’t pay out $32 million because you just want to “throw some money at the problem” or because “it’s easier to settle.” You pay out $32 million because the woman you’ve been harassing is a lawyer, and she gathered evidence of your harassment over the course of years, and she has you dead to rights. You pay out $32 million because you know that if it ever saw the inside of a courtroom, you would have to pay a lot more, and perhaps it would involve criminal charges too. The best part of this story is that the Murdoch family STILL renewed his f–king contract with knowledge of the settlement and harassment. For the love of God.
My investigative team has done a superb job in exposing the lies and smear. I will speak with you on Monday.
— Bill O'Reilly (@BillOReilly) October 21, 2017
Nobody pays $32m for false allegations – nobody https://t.co/qB3njcHHuy
— Gretchen Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) October 21, 2017
Photos courtesy of Getty.