Fox Backs Bill O'Reilly After Report of New Harassment PaymentsBy
Two settlements came after Ailes’ departure, newspaper reports
O’Reilly disputes claims; Fox shares unaffected by scandals
Five women have received payments totaling about $13 million from either 21st Century Fox Inc. or television host Bill O’Reilly in exchange for agreeing to not sue or talk about their accusations against him, according to a report in the New York Times.
The Times’ story, published Saturday, revealed that two settlements came after Fox News’ former chairman, Roger Ailes, left the company last summer following a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former host Gretchen Carlson.
The women had worked for O’Reilly or appeared on his show and accused him of verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances, and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating, the Times reported, citing documents and interviews.
“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “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 company added: “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.”
In a separate statement posted on his website, O’Reilly said: “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 added: “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.”
Fox’s reputation has been in turmoil since Carlson’s lawsuit against Ailes became public last summer. Ailes stepped down as head of Fox News in late July following an investigation of sexual harassment accusations, and Fox named Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine as co-presidents of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network to fill the leadership void.
The scandal has done little to damage Fox News’ ratings or its parent company’s stock price. Fox shares are up 22 percent from July 5, the day before Carlson’s suit became public. Fueled by seemingly insatiable viewer demand for news on President Donald Trump’s administration, Fox News remains the most-watched cable channel, averaging 2.8 million viewers in prime-time so far this season. O’Reilly’s show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” is one of the highest-rated cable shows in prime time.