An investigation by the New York Times released on Saturday reveals that at least five women have taken a total of $13 million in settlements after accusing top Fox News host Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment.
In exchange for the money, the women—both his coworkers and guests on his show—have agreed not to pursue lawsuits against O’Reilly or speak publicly about their accusations. But their initial complaints about his behavior, according to the Times, included “verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded like Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews.” Multiple women recorded O’Reilly’s inappropriate comments to use as evidence in their cases.
The revelations come after the ousting of the network’s chairman, Roger Ailes, over a similar pattern of serial harassment. Like Ailes, O’Reilly is alleged to have retaliated against the careers of women who rebuffed his sexual advances. Ailes left Fox with a $40 million “exit package,” and briefly offered his services to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
In addition to the settlements, former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit against the network last summer accusing O’Reilly and Ailes of sexual harassment. She says she suffered professional retaliation after making the complaints. Her lawsuit describes an “effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation and retaliation,” as well as lurid descriptions of the work environment for its female employees.
“Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny,” Tantaros’ suit reads.
The Justice Department is currently investigating Fox’s settlements with numerous women who accused Ailes of sexual harassment and retaliation, saying the network may have hid the information from its shareholders. Yet many worry the investigation will stall after the Trump administration fired the man leading the case: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.