As advertisers continue to pull ads from The O'Reilly Factor following news he settled several sexual harassment claims, advocacy organizations are calling for the firing of host Bill O'Reilly.
Yesterday, the National Organization for Women (NOW) urged Fox News to fire the anchor, and advocacy organization Workplace Fairness is now joining in. Workplace Fairness vp Darnley Stewart, who is also a partner at at the employment law firm Outten & Golden LLP in New York, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the reported lawsuits that Fox News and O'Reilly settled with multiple women.
When Stewart read the New York Times exposé, she said she found it notable that there had been several cases against O'Reilly. "Fox News and 21st Century Fox were just settling these matters and paying money to have the women go away and not fix the problem," said Stewart. She said that these reports show that Fox had "not taken adequate remedial measures" because the harassment was consistent.
"I think he should be fired," said Stewart, adding that he created a "hostile work environment" not only for the people who work at Fox News but also for the guests who visited. "If you purport to have a zero tolerance policy, there is no room for the way he has been accused of acting."
She pointed to the reported more than $13 million the Times alleged Fox and O'Reilly have had to pay. "Beyond that [Fox has] had to pay millions and millions of dollars to settle these matters and now dozens of advertisers are pulling away. This shows that discrimination and sexual harassment are bad business."
Former news chief Roger Ailes was forced to resign from Fox following sexual harassment allegations, which like O'Reilly he has denied. "At the time they decided to let Ailes go, it seems like it was refreshing," said Stewart. "They came out and said there's no room for this kind of behavior at our workplace. Clearly that's not the case."
Stewart reiterated that Fox needs to "take remedial measures" and educate its workers that sexual harassment won't be tolerated. "I'm sure O'Reilly is saying, 'I was joking. It was just one comment, it wasn't discrimination. It was welcome.' It's not welcome and there's no space for that kind of behavior."
As for O'Reilly's statement defending himself, in which he pointedly remarked that none of the women filed complaints against him with the anonymous tipline, Stewart dismissed that defense. "Even calling an anonymous tipline is a risky move," she said. Stewart said she has had clients who have complained to anonymous tiplines at their own companies and that more often than not, the person they complain about finds out it is them or suspects them and then retaliates against them.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that a third of the total charges filed with the organization include an allegation of harassment. In fiscal year 2016, 12,860 sex-based charges, which include sexual harassment, were documented. These do not include charges filed locally or with state employment agencies. Many times, charges are never filed even at a local level, for fear of retaliation.
"Retaliation is very real in the workplace. At trial it is the most commonly upheld claim of all of the claims that are out there," said Stewart. "Unfortunately people will put up with a certain amount of conduct in the workplace because they fear retaliation."
She said in her experience, the first person to come forward with allegations against someone is usually very brave. As soon as one person steps forward, it becomes easier for others to come forward with their own claims.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) press secretary Sara McGovern praised advertisers who are pulling ads from O'Reilly's show. In a statement to The Hollwood Reporter McGovern said, "It's often difficult for survivors to come forward, especially when the perpetrator is in a position of power. Everyone should be able to feel comfortable in their place of work or learning. We're glad to see so many national brands who are taking these allegations seriously.""
Beyond a written statement, O'Reilly has yet to comment on the controversy on either his Monday or Tuesday show. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump - who has had his own string of both harassment and assault allegations leveled against him - defended O'Reilly, saying that he shouldn't have settled and that he doesn't think O'Reilly did anything wrong.