Fox News parent Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX) said on Sunday it will investigate a sexual harassment claim against TV anchor Bill O’Reilly, who has seen several companies pull their ads from his top-rated news show in the past week.
The investigation comes after a complaint was phoned in to the network’s corporate hotline last week by Wendy Walsh, a former regular guest on Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor” TV show, and her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, which the two posted to YouTube. Walsh, a psychologist and radio host, said O’Reilly reneged on an offer to secure her a lucrative job on the network after she declined his invitation to join him in his hotel suite after a dinner in early 2013.
“I’m told that they are taking it seriously, and they are going to do the investigation that’s legally required of them,” Bloom told CNN on Sunday.
In a statement, 21st Century Fox said it has asked the law firm Paul Weiss to “continue assisting the company in these serious matters.”
Walsh, who appeared on O’Reilly’s show in 2013, said in her message to 21st Century Fox that the incident occurred at the Hotel Bel-Air, where they discussed her future with the show, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“At the beginning of the dinner, he made a point of telling me his best friend was Roger Ailes and they wanted to offer me a job as a contributor on his show,” Walsh said in her call to 21st Century Fox, according to the publication. “At the end of the dinner he said, ‘Let’s get out of here,’ and I thought he meant let’s go to the bar and continue talking about my career and to get more career advice. But he started walking in a different direction and when he turned around to find me he said, ‘Let’s go to my suite.’”
When she declined, O’Reilly allegedly became hostile and told her “forget about any career advice I gave you, you’re on your own,” the Times said.
Fox and O’Reilly have paid $13 million to five women who accused him of sexual harassment, the New York Times reported last weekend. O’Reilly said in a statement then that he had been unfairly targeted because of his prominence and has not made further comment.
More than 30 companies have pulled ads from O’Reilly’s Fox News show since the report, including BMW of North America, Allstate Corp, French pharmaceuticals maker Sanofi SA , direct marketer Constant Contact, men’s clothing company Untuckit and mutual fund operator T. Rowe Price . British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc said it temporarily suspended its advertising.
Fox News, the top-rated cable news network, has faced heightened scrutiny of its workplace climate after sexual harassment allegations led to the resignation of founding Chairman Roger Ailes last year.
21st Century Fox hired law firm Paul Weiss to investigate Ailes.
On April 3, Democratic political consultant and Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky sued the network and Ailes, accusing them of denying her a permanent hosting job after she rebuffed Ailes’ sexual advances.
Roginsky said that a misogynistic culture at Fox News had not changed since Ailes left the network.