O’Reilly: Buying another accuser’s silence
Bill O’Reilly is still causing embarrassment for Fox News, said Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt in The New York Times. Although the network fired O’Reilly in April amid mounting sexual harassment allegations, new revelations show just how much the network was willing to tolerate before cutting ties with the top-rated cable star. Back in January, O’Reilly secretly agreed to pay $32 million out of his own pocket to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by former Fox legal analyst Lis Wiehl, including allegations of explicit emails and a “nonconsensual sexual relationship.” Despite knowing about the settlement, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, the top executives at 21st Century Fox, “made a business calculation” to stand by O’Reilly, giving him a four-year contract extension worth $25 million a year—adding a clause enabling them to fire him if any more sexual scandals became public.
“Talk about corporate irresponsibility,” said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. The Wiehl payout was at least the sixth agreement made by either O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations—agreements involving tens of millions of dollars. Yet the Murdochs “did their best” to keep the public—and other women at Fox—in the dark about O’Reilly’s alleged predatory behavior. “Let the boycotts begin!” Incredibly, O’Reilly sees himself as a victim, said Paul Farhi, also in The Washington Post. He denies doing anything wrong to Wiehl and says reporting the settlement is “a malicious smear” that will hurt his children and keep him from returning to TV. In his podcast, he even blamed God for his public disgrace. “Yeah, I’m mad at Him,” O’Reilly said. “I wish I had more protection.”
Despite everything we know, conservatives continue to cozy up to O’Reilly, said David French in the National Review. Liberals have no monopoly on virtue—as the sordid Harvey Weinstein affair proves—but at least they’ve denounced the disgraced Hollywood mogul, donated his political contributions to charity, and banished him from progressive circles. Yet O’Reilly continues to make the rounds on talk shows to tout his books and claim innocence, while prominent conservatives still appear on his podcast. C’mon: How much money must O’Reilly pay out “before conservatives apply the same standards to him that they would eagerly apply to a liberal of corresponding fame and importance?” Fellow conservatives, “it’s time for O’Reilly to be Weinsteined.” ■