Fox News host Bill O’Reilly faces questions after new details emerged about harassment allegations. A New York Times investigation found that five women received a total of $13 million in payouts made by O’Reilly and Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox. In exchange, the women agreed not to pursue litigation or speak about their accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.
Two of these settlements came after former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes resigned from the company after a former Fox anchor, Gretchen Carlson, sued him for sexual harassment.
“That is the real significance of this story. Because last summer they were so clear about the fact that this kind of behavior was not going to be accepted at the company and yet what my colleagues uncovered is that they’re still settling these claims,” New York Times reporter and CBS News contributor Jodi Kantor said Monday on “CBS This Morning.”
In a statement, the company told CBS News: “21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” and “while he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility.”
Kantor offered two theories on why O’Reilly might be getting different treatment from Ailes when he was being ousted from the company.
“One is that Bill O’Reilly is the key on-air personality at Fox News. He is the public face of the channel in so many ways. Another is that, remember, last summer Fox was still negotiating to keep Megyn Kelly, its biggest female star at the company,” Kantor said. “She’s no longer [at Fox News], but at the time, they really wanted her to stay. And as we know, she was very troubled by these kinds of harassment claims, said that she had been subject to them herself, actually.”
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O’Reilly released a statement April 1 saying: “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.”
However, Kantor said there seems to be a pattern of allegations.
“This is not one woman who’s come forward. This is now several. So the idea that he’s the real victim here and that these women are targeting him to get him to pay up, I think there are some questions about that,” Kantor said.
As for the anonymous company hotline, Kantor questioned “whether a sexual harassment claim can ever really be anonymous.”
“Because if I bring a sexual harassment claim, in order to investigate it or pursue it, you have to go to the person who supposedly did it and say, ‘Hey, an employee is raising their concerns about you.’ Now the probability is that that person is going to know who I am,” she said.
Kantor also pointed to the federal investigation into Fox News over its business practices and financial terms of the settlements.
“We don’t know what it’s turning up, but as we know when investigators start rifling around in your business, a lot tends to comes out. And so I think the question is, what the findings will be with regards to those payments, but also what else will they find out about operations at Fox News,” Kantor said.
CBS News reached out to the women named in the New York Times report, but they declined to comment or did not respond.