An investigation by The New York Times into a slew of sexual harassment settlements against Bill O’Reilly has prompted Fox News to enlist the help of a law firm.
Earlier in the week, 21st Century Fox called on the counsel of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to investigate “at least one accusation” against The O’Reilly Factor’s titular host.
The New York Times report revealed that, over the course of the past decade, O’Reilly and Fox News have settled several separate cases pertaining to sexual misconduct and harassment. The amount paid out totals to over $10 million. Claims against O’Reilly range from lewd comments to the promise of career advancements and promotion for inappropriate favors.
According to a Times follow-up story from Sunday, Wendy Walsh, a former guest on The O’Reilly Factor, called into an anonymous tip-line last week. Walsh had previously recounted a bad experience she’d had with O’Reilly, saying the man had offered her an opportunity as a paid contributor at Fox. Following a dinner meeting, O’Reilly invited her to his room. When she rejected his advance, the offer of a job was suddenly taken off the table.
“21st Century Fox investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters,” wrote Fox representatives in a statement released Sunday.
The statement seems somewhat contrary to the line being presented just last week. Fox had seemed steadfast in its support of O’Reilly, noting that in the years he’s been employed with the network, not a single sexual harassment complaint had ever been lodged against him. While lawsuits had been filed, no Fox employees or guest contributors had approached corporate even through the anonymous hotline.
Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Bill O’Reilly, said the involvement of Paul Weiss was no reason for concern or heightened suspicion. He noted the firm was already on retainer and has been used to look into “all hotline calls” in the past, characterizing the development as “nothing special.”
Wendy Walsh’s lawyer, Lisa Bloom, said her client had placed a call to the hotline because “nobody had done so.” She stressed that Walsh hadn’t been offered a settlement and wasn’t planning to file a lawsuit.
“We will fully cooperate with the investigation,” Bloom said. “Again, Wendy is not seeking any money, just accountability.”
Whether the allegations against O’Reilly are sustainable seems beside the point for many advertisers, who have begun leaving Fox and The O’Reilly Factor en masse. Hyundai, GlaxoSmithKline, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, among others, have all pulled commercial spots from the show, citing their corporate philosophies of respecting women in the workplace.