Friday 28 April 2017

Women get $13m in settlements against top Fox News host

Defensive: Bill O’Reilly. Photo: Reuters
Defensive: Bill O’Reilly. Photo: Reuters

Gerry Smith

Five women have received payments totalling about $13m (€12m) from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly or the network's parent company 21st Century Fox in exchange for their silence on accusations of sexual harassment.

The 'New York Times' has revealed that two settlements came after Fox News' former chairman, Roger Ailes, quit last summer after a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former host Gretchen Carlson (inset right).

The women had worked for O'Reilly or appeared on his show and accused him of verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances, and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr O'Reilly was masturbating, the 'Times' reported.

"21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behaviour very seriously," a company spokesman said. "We have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr O'Reilly. 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."

O'Reilly, who is of Irish descent, said in a statement: "Just like other prominent and controversial people, I'm vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity."

He added: "Most importantly, I'm a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children."

Former host Gretchen Carlson. Photo: AP
Former host Gretchen Carlson. Photo: AP

Fox's reputation has been in turmoil since Carlson's lawsuit against Mr Ailes became public last summer. Mr Ailes stepped down as head of Fox News in late July following an investigation of sexual harassment accusations, and Fox named Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine as co-presidents of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network to fill the leadership void.

The scandal has done little to damage Fox News' ratings or its parent company's stock price. Fox shares are up 22pc from July 5, the day before Carlson's suit became public. Fuelled by seemingly insatiable viewer demand for news on US President Donald Trump's administration, Fox News remains the most-watched cable channel in the US, averaging 2.8 million viewers in prime time so far this season.

O'Reilly's show, 'The O'Reilly Factor', is one of the highest-rated cable shows in prime time.

He earns an annual salary of $18m (€16.8m) but his show has pulled in $446m (€418m) in advertising since 2014, according to the 'Times'.

Irish Independent

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