Fox News has paid five women over $13 million in sexual harassment lawsuit settlements. They all claim Bill O’Reilly made crude and offensive sexual comments to them.
Saturday, the New York Times reported that the five women accused the right-wing pundit of a “wide range” of phone calls, verbal abuse and harassment. They say it sounded as if he was masturbating during the phone calls.
According the lawsuits, 67-year-old Bill O’Reilly made a pledge to use his newsroom status to help women who want to advance their careers. Times reported that he then used that same leverage to try to have sex with them.
The women allege that they had to go along with O’Reilly’s lewd behavior because they feared he would have the power to “stall” their careers.
Two of the settlements have already been reported — a 2004 lawsuit filed by a producer that settled for about $9 million and a second with a former on-air personality.
Three other settlements have not been previously reported. Two were related to sexual harassment claims, and the third involved allegations he verbally abused a producer in front of colleagues.
Two other women have complained about his behavior, the Times reported. Wendy Walsh, who used to appear on his show, said after she rebuffed him he failed to get her a raise at the network, the newspaper reported.
In 2016, similar sexual harassment allegations against then-Fox Chairman Roger Ailes led to his firing.
O’Reilly gave a statement to the Times which suggested his fame and controversial viewpoints made him a target of opportunistic people.
“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” he said in the statement. “In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.
“But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”
Frederic Newman, a lawyer for O’Reilly, told the Times they are “seriously considering legal action.”
In a statement, 21st Century Fox said it takes workplace behavior very seriously.
“Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly,” the statement read.
“While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”
O’Reilly joined the network in 1996 and earns about $18 million a year as the host of “The O’Reilly Factor.”