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Fox News Sexual Harassment Settlements Appear to be Cost of Doing Business

“Bill, you’re my boss!” a former Fox News producer said in a lawsuit she told Bill O’Reilly when he propositioned her for sex.

The tens of millions of dollars Fox News has paid in legal settlements in response to accusations of sexual harassment by former chairman Roger Ailes and top personality Bill O’Reilly, among others, appear to be acceptable damages the company is willing to incur, a moral judgment made at the expense of profit.

“Bill, you’re my boss!” said Andrea Mackris, a former Fox News producer who filed a lawsuit against O’Reilly in 2004, in response to the TV host propositioning both Mackris and her college friend to have phone sex, and then inviting the women to a hotel to give them sex “lessons.”

For over a decade, women employees at Fox have claimed that O’Reilly, the network’s biggest star, and Ailes have sexually harassed them. Fox, its parent company 21st Century Fox and O’Reilly have paid more than $30 million in settlements.

Last year, Fox News agreed to pay $20 million alone to settle a harassment suit by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson on behalf Ailes, who denied any wrongdoing but resigned in July. With regard to allegations against O’Reilly, five women received settlements in exchange for not suing the company.

The New York Times reported Saturday that three of the settlements involving O’Reilly had been previously undisclosed, dating back to 2002. Fox settled two of them, and in 2011, O’Reilly privately settled a third.

But O’Reilly is a top earner for the company, generating nearly half a billion dollars in advertising revenues alone between 2014 and 2016, according to research firm Kantar Media. For a company that makes over $2 billion a year, the cost of legal settlements, plus O’Reilly’s $18 million annual salary, is inconsequential and appears to be just a cost of doing business.

According to the Times, the private settlement was so secretive that 21st Century Fox was unaware of it until last year. The women involved in the settlements either worked for O’Reilly or appeared as guests on his program “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, a former producer, claimed that O’Reilly had verbally abused her in 2002 in front of colleagues; Rebecca Gomez Diamond, a fomer Fox Business Network host, reportedly recorded conversations with O’Reilly and settled in 2011; Juliet Huddy, a regular guest on O’Reilly’s show, accused O’Reilly of pursuing a sexual relationship with her and trying to hamper her career after she rejected his advances; and former Fox anchor Laurie Dhue, accused both O’Reilly and Ailes of harassing her, but not sexually, the Times reported.

Related Story

Fox News Settled Sexual Harassment Claims by Former Host: WSJ

Fox News Settled Sexual Harassment Claims by Former Host: WSJ

"The O'Reilly Factor" host Bill O'Reilly and Fox News co-President Jack Abernethy were both named in the suit.

The largest settlement was a payout of $9 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit former Fox News producer Andrea Mackris brought against O’Reilly in 2004, according to the Times.

The lawsuit claimed that he subjected Mackris to repeated instances of explicit sexual harassment. For example, over dinner, O’Reilly propositioned both Mackris and her college friend to have phone sex, and that the three should go to a hotel and “have the time of their lives.”

He said that the women needed to be trained so they’d be equipped when “a real man shows up in your lives,” according to Mackris’ claim. He offered them “lessons,” and told them they should use their sexuality to their advantage. Also at the dinner, he reportedly told the women about losing his virginity in a car at a New York airport.

According to the claim, O’Reilly even shared with Mackris his sexual fantasies about taking her on a Caribbean vacation:

“Well if I took you down there, I’d want to take a shower with you right away, that would be the first thing I’d do … yeah we’d check into the hotel room, and we would order up some room service and uh, you’d definitely get two wines into you as quickly as I could get into you, I would get ’em into you … maybe intravenously, get those glasses of wine into you …”

O’Reilly said in a statement Saturday regarding the Times story that he has been unfairly targeted because of his public prominence.

“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,” he said. “I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”

21st Century Fox said in a statement:

“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.”

Investigation of Payments

Since last September, Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, had been investigating the payments by Fox News on behalf of Ailes and O’Reilly. Prosecutors are probing whether the company made adequate disclosures about them to investors.

“Securities law requires publicly traded companies — such as 21st Century Fox and its predecessor company, News Corp. — to disclose ‘material’ events affecting the company’s finances,” according to The Washington Post.

However, Bharara was abruptly dismissed on March 11 after he refused to tender his resignation to the Trump administration. In March there was a purge of 46 remaining federal prosecutors appointed by the Obama administration. Bharara claims that he had been told by Trump earlier this year that he could stay on in his role.

On his personal Twitter account Bharara wrote: “I did not resign.Moments ago I was fired.”

A candidate that is frequently mentioned as a possible successor to Bharara is Marc L. Mukasey, a former prosecutor who has represented Ailes.

Fox News and Trump Supporters

In November, election month, Fox News was the most-watched basic cable channel in primetime, according to TVNewser.

“The O’Reilly Factor” marked 192 months as the No. 1 cable news program across the board with an average of 4.1 million total viewers and 816,000 from the ages 25-54 demographic.

According to a Pew Research Center survey published in January, “Americans who say they voted for President Donald Trump in the general election relied heavily on Fox News as their main source of election news leading up to the 2016 election.”

The survey also found that 40 percent of Trump supporters relied on Fox News, and only 3 percent of Hillary Clinton voters named it as their main source. No single news source was pronounced among Clinton voters, but the highest percentages were CNN (18 percent) and MSNBC (9 percent). Only 1 percent of Trump’s voters relied mostly on MSNBC.

“These findings are consistent with past research revealing that those on the right and left have significantly different media diets, with Fox News in particular standing out among conservatives,” according to the survey.

Trump maintains a close relationship with Rupert Murdoch, 85, executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, who took over Fox News after Ailes resigned and remains the CEO.

“They have been friends for a long time,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrote in an email to NPR in March. “They speak on occasion as the president does with all his friends.”

In February, Trump gave O’Reilly an exclusive interview in which he said he respects Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also speaks highly of Fox News.

“I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see as much. I don’t like watching fake news. So — but Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you,” Trump said at a Black History Month event at the White House in February.

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sexual, roger ailes, trump, fox news, sexual assault

Trump Defends Roger Ailes' Sexual Assault: He 'Helped' Women

"I'm sure it was friendly," Trump said of Ailes' alleged sexual assault of over 20 women. He also did not immediately rule out voting for former KKK grand wizard David Duke for Senate.

Trump also has close ties with Ailes. In an interview on “Meet the Press” in July, Trump defended him amid the sexual harassment allegations.

“I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them,” Trump said. “And even recently. And when they write books that are fairly recently released, and they say wonderful things about him. And now all of a sudden they’re saying these horrible things about him.”

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    • I admit to laughing when I read the transcript and saw O’Reilly mixed up loofah with Falafel (why would you want to rub a fried ground chickpea patty on someone in the shower?), but I stopped laughing when I saw her say “Bob, you are my boss!”

      Reply
  • If I were king for a day, I’d legalize lie detector tests for exactly these kind of issues.

    If he really did this, he should pay for it with his job and his wealth.

    If he’s being unfairly targeted, then those people should pay.

    I have a hunch that he’s not being unfairly targeted. If that’s the case, he should be damn glad he didn’t use his position of power to abuse one of my daughters.

    And yes, I’m a conservative who watches plenty of Fox news (I also watch MSNC and CCN)

    Reply
    • I feel the same way regarding my daughters. I don’t think that every accusation is true, but when payouts for accusations stack up like cord wood, you have to pay attention. I would not recommend a woman take a job at this habitual sex offender network.

      Dan, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now – we need you here. Our country cannot move forward until we clear the air of the divisive partisans and start working together again like Dr. Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson and Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan.

      I happen to personally know Governor Tom Ridge – I am the vice chair and he is the chair of the National Organization on Disability. Had Tom run for president, not only would I have voted for him, I would’ve helped him raise money. Senator Lindsey Graham strikes me as a good man – I’ve been listening to his commentary on CNN regarding the president and his Russian infestation. Keep an eye on Senator Duckworth and Rep. Gabbard. Good people.

      Reply
  • Not in the least bit surprised. I bet if it was on video, he’d still say it wasn’t him. Lacking in honesty and all traces of moral fortitude.

    Reply
  • Anonymous Business Owner

    I’m a business owner and scared to hell about hiring any women. The truth of the matter is they will latch on to you and use their sexuality to advance their careers if that doesn’t get them far enough or even if it does they will then flip and file a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment. In any case it’s a loose loose situation. When diversity standards need to be met hire trans

    Reply
    • I’ve employed mostly women for the past 25 years. I have two daughters and a wife. I don’t have the problems you have.

      Perhaps I don’t have the animal magnetism of Ailes or O’Reilly. I get it, though. Ailes gets me hot. I want to caress that third chin while nestled against those side flaps. Especially on a 90 degree July afternoon. Mmmmmmm. Wouldn’t anyone?

      Reply
  • Anonymous Business Owner

    Following up to my last comment. That or higher one to the absolute highest position in your organization making them CEO and chairman and live with being a subordinate. Not many choices are left out there

    Reply
  • It’s not just the cost of doing business, it’s sexually lewd and whorish white men doing what they have been allowed to do since they first entered slave cabins raping Black women slaves at will.

    The difference with white women being harassed and raped is that they can collect millions by filing lawsuits. Black women are left empty-handed and penniless with white trauma.

    What is it with these perverts named BILL who want to drug women to rape them. O’Reilly, as a Catholic, has some kind of perverted “wine” ritual before he broke into her body!

    These filthy, sexually harassing old white geezers are in every law firm, corporate office and nonprofit organizations. One of the main reasons white men don’t like to hire heterosexual Black men is because they don’t want competition in their harems (aka businesses or law firms). They prefer to hire modern-day “eunuchs”: Black gay males who pose no threat to the white man’s stable of female sexual prospects.

    Reply
  • MARGARET OPINE

    Excellent article covering this story.
    Even more, this article paints a good picture, a clear vision of the facts.
    I have already researched this story when I read this.
    Thanks diversityinc.com and Sheryl Estrada.

    It is clear that a kind of pathology is oozing around amongst executives in the U.S.
    and all the way to the White House. Now this behavior among executives is not unusual; it is
    actually quite common since the beginning of times. But I think a lot of people are thinking that
    paying out millions would curb this kind of behavior and then there is the question of their ”’legacy”’
    at the end of their long illustrious careers. But nothing seems to matter; they go forth with their abuse, even terror. Reading this article and listening to the videos, etc., reminds me, and causes me to feel great sympathy for what these young women went through. (Men, and some others, think that the big dollars will take the ‘slime’ away in a woman’s psyche soul, but not when you’re that young and not if it’s your first time at any age. There is permanent scarring. With or without the money, a woman will be telling such a story in her old-age. So. This kind of abuse among women and children has staying-power within their sensibilities.)
    THE STRANGE THING ABOUT WOMEN….There are some “nurturing” women who will want to “care” for these pathetic males. They are women who will want to ””love””’ them straight and decent and strong. They will try to cure the ””horrible””’. For ””love”” or ””money””-? The bottom-line is: there are women out there who would be there for these ””small”” versions of ”””’success in masculinity”” but these guys minds and souls are currently spinning on: “I’m the greatest. I’m the greatest. I am so rich. I am so….so…” and they will actually spin that web until they come to, “I am so pathetic!” And they will meltdown, if they are fortunate, to something decent and better.
    *Bill O’Reilly has written a children’s book. Now that’s creepy too.
    *While this behavior is common among top executives in all placements throughout history
    …I think modern women can gain from my mention of two references:
    ””The 20th Century Sex Revolution & Its Afterglow””” (and) “”Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Ph.D.”””
    –Margaret Opine

    Reply
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