Fox knew of Bill O'Reilly harassment settlement before renewing contract

Last Updated Oct 21, 2017 6:09 PM EDT

The parent company of Fox News says it knew about a settlement over sexual harassment allegations against Bill O'Reilly by an on-air analyst before the company extended the ex-host's $25 million contract in February.

In response to a New York Times story published Saturday, 21st Century Fox says it knew of the settlement but not the monetary amount. The Times reports O'Reilly reached a settlement worth $32 million with Lis Wiehl, a longtime Fox News legal analyst. CBS News has not confirmed the amount of the settlement. O'Reilly denied doing anything improper in an interview with the Times.

Wiehl accused O'Reilly of harassment and "a nonconsensual sexual relationship," according to the Times, which cited unnamed sources briefed on the settlement. The paper reports Wiehl's attorneys sent a draft of a lawsuit to O'Reilly on Jan. 2, and the parties reached a settlement a few days later.

Fox News extended O'Reilly's contract six weeks later, boosting his pay from $18 million to $25 million.

"When the company renewed Bill O'Reilly's contract in February, it knew that a sexual harassment lawsuit had been threatened against him by Lis Wiehl, but was informed by Mr. O'Reilly that he had settled the matter personally, on financial terms that he and Ms. Wiehl had agreed were confidential and not disclosed to the company," 21 Century Fox said in a statement to CBS News on Saturday.

"His new contract, which was made at a time typical for renewals of multi-year talent contracts, added protections for the company specifically aimed at harassment, including that Mr. O'Reilly could be dismissed if the company was made aware of other allegations or if additional relevant information was obtained in a company investigation," the company said. "The company subsequently acted based on the terms of this contract."

Mark Fabiani, an attorney for O'Reilly issued a statement denouncing the Times story later Saturday.

"In its latest diatribe against Bill O'Reilly, the Times printed leaked information provided by anonymous sources that is out of context, false, defamatory, and obviously designed to embarrass Bill O'Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace," he wrote.

Fabiani also released an affidavit signed by Wiehl in which she says she and O'Reilly have "resolved all our issues."

"I would no longer make the allegations contained in the draft complaint," she wrote.

O'Reilly was fired in April after settlements with multiple women over accusations of sexual harassment came to light. He had been at the network for more than 20 years.

21st Century Fox said Saturday that it had taken "concerted action" to overhaul Fox News and replace members of the network's leadership. It said it also increased "the channels through which employees can report harassment or discrimination."

"These changes come from the top, with Lachlan and James Murdoch personally leading the effort to promote civility and respect on the job, while maintaining the Company's long-held commitment to a diverse, inclusive and creative workplace," the company said.