Fox News gave former talk show host Bill O’Reilly a contract extension even after he’d settled a sexual harassment case for a massive amount of money.
The New York Times reports that last January, O’Reilly struck a $32-million agreement with a network analyst to keep his alleged misdeeds quiet.
Fox says it was aware of the allegations levied against O’Reilly by the veteran analyst, Lis Wiehl.
Wiehl accused O’Reilly of prolonged harassment, ‘a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people brief on the matter.’
The agreement, which disbursed an unusually large sum to Wiehl, was the sixth either O’Reilly or Fox made to settle claims of harassment against the popular and profitable talk show host.
In a statement, Fox said it had known about the agreement, but wasn’t particularly privy to its details. Representatives for the media company said they regarded the dispute as a personal matter, to be discussed and resolved between Wiehl and O’Reilly independent of any internal arbitration.
The Times reports that the company said it would have “surely wanted to renew” O’Reilly’s contract, despite the accumulating reports on his unprofessional actions offscreen.
“He was the biggest star of cable TV,” they said, referring to O’Reilly’s highly profitable and highly rated talk show.
However, concerned over a similar scandal which resulted in the departure of former Fox head Roger Ailes, the company added a new stipulation in O’Reilly’s contract – that he could be dismissed if more allegations arose in the future.
“The company subsequently acted based on the terms of this contract,” read the statement issued by Fox.
To date, O’Reilly has denied each of the claims stacked against him.
Belligerent and angry, he said during a Wednesday interview, “I never mistreated anyone.”
He said he settled all of the harassment matters privately to shield his children from publicity.
“It’s politically and financially motivated,” he said, speaking about the controversy, “and we can prove it with shocking information, but I’m not going to sit here in a courtroom for a year and a half and let my kids get beaten up every single day of their lives by a tabloid press that would sit there, and you know it.”
Wiehl, for her part, claims that she was coerced into a nonconsensual relationship with O’Reilly as a form of gross reciprocation. After appearing several times on The O’Reilly Show as a guest legal analyst, she was offered a position with the network.
Upon joining Fox, she says she was approached by O’Reilly, who said he “owed” her.
The claim is similar to that of other purported victims of O’Reilly’s abuse, many of whom say they were pressured after receiving or accepting offers of employment with Fox.
The Wiehl settlement was supposed to be confidential, but was reported last week by The New York Times.
Fox acknowledged it was aware of the complaint, but chose to extend O’Reilly’s contract anyway.