Fox Settled O’Reilly Sexual Harassment Claims Weeks After Ailes Resignation

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Fox News executives struck a secret, six-figure settlement agreement with a former network host who accused Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment just weeks after Roger Ailes resigned as CEO amid his own sexual harassment scandal, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Juliet Huddy alleged that her former colleague made sexual advances towards her in 2011, when she had a regular segment on “The O’Reilly Factor,” and that he tried to hurt her career when she refused them, according to an August letter from Huddy’s lawyer to Fox News that was obtained by the Times.

The newspaper reported that it was sent a copy of the document anonymously in December, and verified its authenticity with several individuals who were briefed on it.

In the letter, first reported Monday by LawNewz.com, Huddy alleged that O’Reilly kissed her without permission after lunch near his Long Island home and once gave her a key to the room in the Manhattan hotel where he was staying after the two went to see a Broadway show.

She also alleged in the letter that O’Reilly called her after work hours for “highly inappropriate and sexual” conversations during which she said he sometimes sounded like he was masturbating.

Huddy’s lawyers say their client felt pressure to continue to see and speak to O’Reilly outside of the office despite her discomfort because he “had total control over her work assignment,” according to the Times.

Fox News dismissed Huddy’s allegations in a statement to TPM.

“Juliet Huddy’s letter of intent to sue contained substantial falsehoods which were vehemently denied by Bill O’Reilly,” a spokesperson said.

O’Reilly’s lawyer, Fredric S. Newman, also denied the allegations to the Times, saying, “There is absolutely no basis for any claim of sexual harassment against Bill O’Reilly by Juliet Huddy.”

Anonymous individuals briefed on the settlement told the Times that 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, agreed on Sept. 5 to pay Huddy an amount in the high six figures in exchange for her silence and agreement not to sue.

O’Reilly previously had been sued in 2004 by a former producer on his show, Andrea Mackris, who alleged that he made lewd comments and sexual advances towards her. Mackris charged in the suit that O’Reilly repeatedly told her to buy a vibrator and would call her when it sounded like he was masturbating.

Mackris and O’Reilly settled out of court, and he said on air at the time, in language cleared by his lawyers, that there was “no wrongdoing in the case whatsoever by anyone.”

The reported settlement with Huddy came just one day before 21st Century Fox announced it had agreed to pay $20 million to former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson to settle her sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, the company’s longtime head honcho. The company offered an unprecedented public apology at the time, saying that Carlson was “not treated with the respect that she and all our colleagues deserve.”

Other Fox personalities also went public this year with stories of sexual harassment at the network. Megyn Kelly, who since decamped for NBC News, alleged in a recently-published book that Ailes harassed her. Andrea Tantaros filed her own suit against the network in late August, claiming that both Ailes and O’Reilly subjected her to unwanted advances.

Tantaros alleged in the complaint that O’Reilly asked her to come stay at his Long Island residence and called her a “wild girl.” Fox News said the complaint was “filled with falsehoods” and cast Tantaros as an “opportunist” who was upset that she’d been suspended from the network for publishing a book without Fox’s approval.

Ailes has vigorously denied all of the allegations against him through his lawyers.

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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