Right-wing entertainer and provocateur Bill O’Reilly has made an ironic move in his all-out fight against the waves of sexual harassment charges that are threatening even his lofty perch at Fox News.
According to the New York Times, the conservative commentator — who made his name in the 1990s disparaging then-President Bill Clinton for having an extramarital affair — has hired Clinton’s lawyer from the embattled “Monicagate” era, Mark Fabiani.
Fox News announced this weekend that it intends to pursue an independent investigation against O’Reilly regarding the charges of groping, harassment and sexualized bullying leveled against him by multiple women who have worked at Fox News. Network management are bringing back white shoe law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the firm that investigated markedly similar charges against ousted CEO Roger Ailes last year.
“21st Century Fox investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters,” said a statement from the company on Sunday.
Ailes was forced to step down after former Fox host Gretchen Carlson sued both him and the network alleging a years-long pattern of sexual harassment and insinuations that if Carlson wanted to further her career, she would be required to submit to Ailes’ sexual advances.
Carlson and many other women who have worked at Fox say that the company’s sexual harassment culture is a throwback to the “Mad Men” era, where women are only valued for attractiveness and sexual aggression from men is considered part of doing business.
O’Reilly has denied all claims against him, insisting that it’s only his money and power that make him a “target” for lawsuits by money-hungry women.
In response to the announcement that Fox is retaining Paul, Weiss, Fabiani issued a statement insisting that nothing out of the ordinary is happening.
Paul, Weiss, Fabiani said, was “already retained by the company to look into all hotline calls” about O’Reilly’s behavior.
O’Reilly has repeatedly pointed to the fact that no women ever called Fox News’ sex harassment hotline about him to complain and says he’s done nothing wrong. Reports from inside Fox News say that women working there think of the hotline as a joke, that using it will only make them vulnerable to retribution by higher-ups who are trying to protect their on-air talent.
According to the Times, executives at Fox are seriously weighing O’Reilly’s value as a ratings champion against the damage he does to their brand and credibility every day that he stays on the air with the allegations against him.
“On one hand, there was the question of whether Fox News and 21st Century Fox could gut it out and stand by Mr. O’Reilly in the face of mounting advertiser defections and internal and external pressure to show that they are serious about fostering a modern work environment that treats women as equals (yes, in 2017, this is still an issue),” said the Times‘ Jim Rutenberg.