Bill O’Reilly was ousted by Fox News in April, and Fox has finally revealed why.
O’Reilly, signed on to a $32 million agreement in order to settle further sexual harassment claims against him.
The agreement has shocked many familiar with the case, as such a high dollar amount suggest significant effort on O’Reilly’s part to make the charges go away.
Fox has previously admitted that the network was aware of the allegations. The agreement amount wasn’t made public until recently. The New York Times published an article detailing O’Reilly’s fall from the top-rated host at the Fox News Network.
The New York Times reports:
Although the deal has not been previously made public, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly. They included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter.
It was at least the sixth agreement — and by far the largest — made by either Mr. O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against him. Despite that record, 21st Century Fox began contract negotiations with Mr. O’Reilly, and in February granted him a four-year extension that paid $25 million a year.
Interviews with people familiar with the settlement, and documents obtained by The New York Times, show how the company tried and ultimately failed to contain the second wave of a sexual harassment crisis that initially burst into public view the previous summer and cost the Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, and eventually Mr. O’Reilly, their jobs.
In January, the reporting shows, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, the top executives at 21st Century Fox, made a business calculation to stand by Mr. O’Reilly despite his most recent, and potentially most explosive, harassment dispute.
O’Reilly has continually denied the claims. Initially, Fox News was ready to disregard the sexual harassment charges and renewed his contract.
But the claims by women who said that O’Reilly harassed them eventually won out against Fox’s efforts to minimize publicity of the scandal.
Last year, Fox News CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes left his role amid another sexual harassment scandal and Rupert Murdoch took his place.
Since then, the Network was trying to save its reputation, and apparently hoped the accusations against O’Reilly would go away. Eventually, it became clear that the scandal would only grow, and Murdoch had to take a stand agains O’Reilly or face severe criticism from the public for allowing O’Reilly to retain his position.
Prosecutors responsible for investigations on Fox’s handling of complaints against Ailes informed Murdock that a similar investigations would release the allegations against O’Reilly to the public. Bill O’Reilly was soon fired, as the company couldn’t handle another scandal.
The New York Times continues:
But by April, the Murdochs decided to jettison Mr. O’Reilly as some of the settlements became public and posed a significant threat to their business empire.
Early that month, The Times reported on five settlements involving Mr. O’Reilly, leading advertisers to boycott his show and spawning protests calling for his ouster. About the same time, the O’Reilly settlements arose as an issue in 21st Century Fox’s attempt to buy the European satellite company Sky.
In addition, federal prosecutors who had been investigating the network’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against Mr. Ailes had asked for material related to allegations involving Mr. O’Reilly, according to an internal Fox email obtained by The Times.
“Their legal theory has been that we hid the fact that we had a problem with Roger,” Gerson Zweifach, Fox’s general counsel, wrote in the email, referring to the prosecutors and Mr. Ailes, “and now it will be applied to O’Reilly, and they will insist on full knowledge of all complaints about O’Reilly’s behavior in the workplace, regardless of who settled them.”
He warned the Murdochs that they should expect details from the January settlement to become public. Six days later, Mr. O’Reilly was fired.
O’Reilly denies the charges against him.
“I never mistreated anyone,” he told the Times. O’Reilly has described the allegations against him as a smear campaign, lacking in evidence. He says that anonymous sources made “unsubstantiated” claims without any proof.
The Blaze reports:
According to a statement obtained by CNN, Fox News knew of the January settlement, but did not know of the settlement amount.
The Fox spokesman also explained that new conditions were placed in O’Reilly’s contract that said the company could dismiss him should new or additional information surface regarding the sexual misconduct allegations. The company then exercised that new clause in April.
The spokesman said:
When the company renewed Bill O’Reilly’s contract in February, it knew that a sexual harassment lawsuit had been threatened against him by Lis Wiehl, but was informed by Mr. O’Reilly that he had settled the matter personally, on financial terms that he and Ms. Wiehl had agreed were confidential and not disclosed to the company.
“His new contract, which was made at a time typical for renewals of multi-year talent contracts, added protections for the company specifically aimed at harassment, including that Mr. O’Reilly could be dismissed if the company was made aware of other allegations or if additional relevant information was obtained in a company investigation. The company subsequently acted based on the terms of this contract.
In an interview with the Times, O’Reilly maintained his innocence.
“I never mistreated anyone,” he said. “It’s politically and financially motivated, and we can prove it with shocking information, but I’m not going to sit here in a courtroom for a year and a half and let my kids get beaten up every single day of their lives by a tabloid press that would sit there, and you know it.”
Mark Fabiani, an O’Reilly spokesman, elaborated in a statement that the Times, in its latest story, has “maliciously smeared” O’Reilly by choosing to rely on “unsubstantiated allegations, anonymous sources and incomplete, leaked or stolen documents” instead of concrete, provable facts.
Despite the Network’s efforts to cover up the allegations, Fox soon learned it had to fire O’Reilly or face public scrutiny it couldn’t afford after just closing the doors on another scandal.
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