The Washington Post responded to Saturday’s report by the New York Times that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has cost the company $13 million in payouts to women who accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment with a Sunday editorial called “Bill O’Reilly, an awful, awful man.”
In 2004, former producer Andrea Mackris filed suit against O’Reilly for a series of suggestive remarks and a number of phone calls in which the conservative host called Mackris while masturbating and penetrating himself with a vibrator. She received a $9 million payout and orders to never speak publicly about the harassment.
Earlier this year, it came to light that producer Juliet Huddy had also received a settlement over harassing behavior by O’Reilly in 2011. Three other women have received settlements from Fox News: Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, Rebecca Gomez Diamond and Laurie Dhue. The network and host, said Wemple, “fashioned a mutual protection racket on the premises of Fox News” in order to quietly handle the flood of complaints.
O’Reilly was also named in a suit by former Fox host Andrea Tantaros, who said that O’Reilly made a series of lurid advances, all of which she rebuffed, only to find her career at the network at a dead end.
“More alleged sleaziness rounds out the O’Reilly file,” wrote Wemple. “As reported by the New York Times, former ‘O’Reilly Factor’ guest Wendy Walsh claims that O’Reilly made the moves on her in 2013.”
Walsh reportedly turned O’Reilly down. She said that he made a move to kiss her, causing her to lose her balance and fall, but then made no move to help her off off the ground.
“He became hostile, telling her that she could forget any career advice he had given her and that she was on her own. He also told her that her black leather purse was ugly,” said the Times.
Wemple said, “Not long thereafter, as the New York Times reports, Wendy Walsh disappeared from ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’ She became a former guest, just the way Diamond became a former Fox Business host, just the way Mackris became a former producer for ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ just the way Dhue became a former anchor, just the way Huddy became a former on-air talent, just the way Bernstein became a former junior producer.”
“Through it all, O’Reilly remains the current King of Cable News,” said Wemple. “Nightly he spins whatever arguments are close at hand to make excuses for the actions and behavior of a friend and inveterate misogynist — the president of the United States. He promotes his serially mediocre books, including the recently released ‘Old School: Life in the Sane Lane,’ which goes after ‘snowflakes,’ a.k.a. people who come forth with grievances. And he rules the ratings.”
Both Fox News and O’Reilly responded to the Times piece by pointing out that none of the women had used the company’s internal hotline designated for reporting on the job abuse.
“What the heck is up with this ‘hotline’ stuff?” Wemple asked. “Must these women suffer twice? Once at the allegedly manipulative and power-tripping O’Reilly, and again at the hands of people faulting them for their failure to call a damn hotline? Shall we henceforth judge all those who claim sexual harassment by their due diligence in ringing up some phone number?”
O’Reilly’s statement dripped with self-pity and bristled with righteous indignation, all of which, Wemple said, was for show. O’Reilly, he said, is no victim, and his claims that he paid out the massive settlements in order to protect his family from embarrassment and inconvenience don’t hold water.
“The notion, furthermore, that O’Reilly would just roll over and gift-wrap big-money settlements to undeserving complainants just to save his family a bit of trouble — well, that notion contradicts everything we know about O’Reilly. That is, the stubborn and penny-pinching ‘old school’ guy who’d never surrender a dollar he didn’t have to,” said Wemple.
“Fredric S. Newman, a lawyer for O’Reilly, told the New York Times: ‘We are now seriously considering legal action to defend Mr. O’Reilly’s reputation,’” Wemple said. “Okay, but in light of O’Reilly’s proven credibility problems exposed by various ‘far left’ media outlets in 2015, his frequently offensive and irresponsible comments, and his core nastiness, it’s not clear just how much reputation there is to protect anymore. With his far-flung misadventures, O’Reilly appears to have libel-proofed himself.”
He went on, “An aggressive lawyer, great ratings and a supportive parent company addicted to the advertising revenue churned out by ‘The O’Reilly Factor’: The King of Cable News has all the support he needs to continue his particular brand of on-air showmanship. Indeed, it has been reported that O’Reilly’s contract at the network has been renewed.”
Given O’Reilly’s lack of credibility, his pugilistic viciousness when under attack and his serial instances of sexual abuse, Wemple said, “Here’s an anchor who shouldn’t be trusted to share space with his colleagues, nor to report on women and men. He is an awful, awful man.”