Five women who have alleged that Bill O'Reilly sexually harassed them or engaged in other forms of inappropriate behavior have received a total of approximately $13 million in payouts from O'Reilly, Fox News or parent company 21st Century Fox in exchange for agreeing not to pursue litigation or speak about the accusations against him, The New York Times has revealed in an investigative exposé published online on Saturday.
Two of the settlements were previously known, the Times notes, including a $9 million one in 2004 with producer Andrea Mackris, who sued O'Reilly for sexual harassment, and another $1.6 million one reached last year with former on-air personality Juliet Huddy, whose lawyers alleged O'Reilly pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011. But the Times uncovered three additional settlements, two involving women who alleged sexual harassment and another who claimed O'Reilly verbally abused her.
In 2002, O'Reilly allegedly stormed into the newsroom and screamed at a young producer, Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, who left the network with a payout and confidentiality agreement shortly after the incident, according to current and former employees, some of whom witnessed what took place, who spoke with The Times. The other two new settlements were reached with women who made sexual harassment claims against O'Reilly: former Fox Business Network host Rebecca Gomez Diamond, who settled her case in 2011, and Laurie Dhue, a Fox News anchor from 2000-2008. In Diamond's case, O'Reilly paid the undisclosed settlement amount, two people familiar with the situation told the Times. Another person familiar with the matter said 21st Century Fox only learned of that settlement late last year as it was investigating what had occurred at Fox News under Roger Ailes' time as CEO. Dhue, who also made harassment claims against Ailes, according to people briefed on her lawyers' complaints, reached a more than $1 million settlement with 21st Century Fox, the Times reports.
In addition to those settlements, two other women have claimed O'Reilly behaved inappropriately toward them. A regular guest on The O'Reilly Factor, Wendy Walsh, told the Times that after she declined his invitation to go to his hotel suite following a 2013 dinner, his offer to make her a contributor for the network never materialized. And, in her lawsuit against the network and Ailes, former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros said O'Reilly sexually harassed her.
The Times reported that O'Reilly has hired crisis communications expert and Clinton White House alum Mark Fabiani, who issued the following statement from his client, which was also posted on O'Reilly's personal website:
"Just like other prominent and controversial people, I'm vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. 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. The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me."
O'Reilly's lawyer Fredric S. Newman told the Times in a statement, "We are now seriously considering legal action to defend Mr. O'Reilly's reputation."
Meanwhile, 21st Century Fox said in a statement that it "takes matters of 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 continued. "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."
Fox News said it wouldn't be commenting beyond 21st Century Fox and O'Reilly's statement.