Report: Bill O’Reilly settled another sexual harassment claim for $32 million

Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly secretly settled a sexual harassment allegation with a network contributor for $32 million — the largest, by far, of six such agreements that eventually toppled the outspoken commentator, according to a new report.

The New York Times said Bill O’Reilly agreed to the settlement in January with Lis Wiehl, a longtime legal analyst at Fox who had worked with O’Reilly and had once offered him legal advice.

.. O’Reilly declined to discuss details of the settlement with Wiehl, citing a confidentiality agreement. But he said he agreed to settle “to protect my children from the horror” of continuing adverse publicity had Wiehl’s allegations been litigated in court.

.. “That’s it,” O’Reilly said. “I knew if I took this to court there would be three years of unrelenting headlines. That’s why I did it.”

.. O’Reilly spokesman Mark Fabiani released an affidavit on Saturday in which Wiehl acknowledged that O’Reilly forwarded her emails that had been sent to him, apparently while seeking legal advice from her about what to do about them.

.. Fabiani said 21st Century had paid out “close to $100 million” to “dozens of women” who had alleged harassment by other men at the network.

.. O’Reilly personally paid two of these five settlements. Fox News paid the other three.

After Ailes

It’s almost impossible to imagine Fox News without its creator and guardian, Roger Ailes. Almost.

But minutes before Ailes’ statement was released, Twenty-First Century Fox released its own statement — which promised an “internal review” to investigate the allegations.

Outside counsel has reportedly been retained to conduct the review under the direction of the Murdochs. In the memory of many who have observed the corporate culture of Twenty-First Century Fox and other Murdoch companies, the statement was a novelty. “Unprecedented,” one former senior executive told Sherman. “It’s not Rupert’s style to investigate internal issues.”

.. Back in 2010, Matthew Freud, Murdoch’s former son-in-law and a top PR executive in Britain, told The New York Times’ David Carr, “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’ horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”

.. Everyone I have ever talked to over there has almost a personal Roger Ailes story, and they’re personally loyal to him. Everything about it, the culture of that network, seems to me to be his personality.

.. James is no socialist, but his politics are firmly to the left of Ailes’. He is friends with Al Gore’s daughter, his wife once worked for the Clinton Foundation, and he donated $2,300 (the maximum possible individual donation) to Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and more than $1 million to the Clinton Foundation. A 2003 New York Times article described him as “steadfastly liberal.”

Unlike his father and Ailes, though, James seems uninterested in making political statements with his publications.

.. I have some things I get involved in, but ultimately my job and our job here is about being able to maintain, create and grow a platform that has a diversity of voices,”

.. For Lachlan and James, not mixing business with politics might have been a reason that they, unlike their father, would never have built Fox News in the first place. But the belief inside the building is that Fox News’ rightward slant is an essential component of its success as a business. Ailes’ departure would still leave them with the most successful and most watched cable news channel in the world. Turning it into CNN or SkyNews would likely be a terrible idea. Letting Fox be Fox is the surer course.

If the sons are business first, expect them to keep things much the way they are.


.. While the Murdoch boys may not want to use Fox News as a political weapon, they still appreciate the vast profits it delivers Twenty-First Century Fox. That alone is reason enough to not change the formula too much.

.. Bill Shine oversees the channel’s opinion programming, prime-time programming and Fox Business Network. Prime-time and opinion are the beating heart of Fox News, making Shine a strong internal candidate to succeed Ailes.