Washington (AFP) - Bill O'Reilly, a star Fox News commentator, has been accused of harassment by at least five women associated with the network, resulting in multi-million dollar payouts, The New York Times reported Saturday.
It said the company and O'Reilly had paid the five women a total of $13 million in the cases that span 15 years, in exchange for their silence and agreeing not to pursue litigation against Fox News, a favorite among conservatives.
While two of the cases were previously known, the Times said it had unearthed three more cases of harassment, two of a sexual nature and one alleging verbally abusive behavior by O'Reilly.
The five women either worked for or made appearances on his program, "The O'Reilly Factor," or were staffers on other Fox programs, according to the Times report.
The women mostly accused O'Reilly of using his powerful position at Fox to pressure them for sexual favors.
The most recent settlement was last year, the Times said.
In a carefully worded statement posted on his website, O'Reilly did not actually deny any of the allegations, but said his prominence made him "vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity."
He noted that "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."
O'Reilly, who is 67, is one of the most prominent faces on American television.
"The O'Reilly Factor" was the most-watched cable news program of the first quarter of 2017, attracting an average of more than 3.9 million viewers.
The Times story comes less than a year after Roger Ailes resigned as the Fox News chief executive following accusations from several women that he had sexually harassed them. In November, then Fox anchor Megyn Kelly described similar encounters, which Ailes denied.
Fox News declined to comment beyond O'Reilly's statement and a statement provided to the New York Times by the network's parent company, 21st Century Fox.
"21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously," it said. "We have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O'Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O'Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility."