Bill O’Reilly is good business for Fox News. But he has also cost millions in harassment settlements. The New York Times reveals that Fox News and O’Reilly have paid about $13 million since 2002 to five women to settle complaints about the anchor’s behavior. Two of the settlements were already known, but three others were uncovered by the Times. And in addition to the five settlements, two other women have come forward to complain about O’Reilly’s behavior. Some of the settlements were paid by the network, others by O’Reilly.
The women all tell a similar story of being wooed by the powerful Fox News host who has the top-rated show on the network. O’Reilly would offer advice and act as a mentor, promising to help out professionally. Then he would pursue the women sexually, either through lewd comments and conversations or straight up unwanted advances. Those who rejected him often saw their career prospects at Fox News vanish overnight. The network appears to have often chosen to look away.
“I feel bad that some of these old guys are using mating strategies that were acceptable in the 1950s and are not acceptable now,” said Wendy Walsh, who alleges O’Reilly didn’t follow through on a promise to get her a slot at the network after she rejected his advances. “I hope young men can learn from this.”
Significantly, two of the five settlements were reached after the network’s former chairman, Roger Ailes, was fired in the middle of another sexual harassment scandal. At the time the company said it didn’t tolerate behavior that “disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.”
O’Reilly has denied wrongdoing and says his high profile makes him a target for these kinds of lawsuits. “The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children,” O’Reilly said. “My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.”