Fox renewed Bill O’Reilly’s contract despite knowing he had settled a $32 million agreement amid sexual harassment allegations just months before.
The allegations against O’Reilly included “repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material” to a longtime network analyst, according to a New York Times article published on Saturday, October 21. The Times had also previously reported five other settlements involving O’Reilly that totaled close to $13 million.
According to the Times, Fox negotiated his contract to include new provisions that would allow O’Reilly to be let go if new allegations came to light. Still, he was granted a four-year extension that paid him $25 million a year in February.
As previously reported, he was officially forced out of Fox News in April.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement at the time.
O’Reilly, 67, issued his own statement shortly afterwards, saying, “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”
O’Reilly is not the only person to have been ousted by Fox for claims of misconduct — Fox News Channel chairman and CEO Roger Ailes was forced to resign amid similar sexual harassment allegations in 2016. He died in May this year.
The news comes on the heels of a massive scandal involving Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused by multiple actresses of sexual harassment. The producer was fired by his own company earlier this month after the Times revealed three decades of alleged sexual harassment and assault by Weinstein. His wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, announced their split on October 10. The movie mogul sought therapy in Arizona for various psychological issues, but left treatment after just one week.
21st Century Fox released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday, October 21, in which the company defended renewing O’Reilly’s contact: “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. 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 subsequently acted based on the terms of this contract,” the statement continued. “21st Century Fox has taken concerted action to transform Fox News, including installing new leaders, overhauling management and on-air talent, expanding training, and increasing the channels through which employees can report harassment or discrimination.”
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