Bill O’Reilly wanted to defend Fox News’ reputation.
In mid-November, four months after Roger Ailes resigned amid sexual harassment allegations, O’Reilly went on “CBS This Morning” and criticized his colleague Megyn Kelly for making public accusations against their former boss.
“I’m not interested in making my network look bad,” O’Reilly said.
On his own show that night, he told his viewers — and his female colleagues — that any allegations of harassment or assault should be taken up with human resources.
“If somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance,” O’Reilly said. “You don’t like what’s happening in the workplace, go to human resources or leave. And then take the action you need to take afterward if you feel aggrieved … But don’t run down the concern that supports you by trying to undermine it.”
What O’Reilly did not say at that time was that just two months earlier he, too, had been accused of sexual harassment by a former colleague.
In August, lawyers for Juliet Huddy, a former on-air personality, wrote a letter of intent to sue that alleged O’Reilly had tried to derail her career after she turned down his sexual advances.
Huddy also alleged that Jack Abernethy, a longtime executive, began “trashing her” after she rebuffed his effort to pursue a personal relationship, the sources said.
In September, sources with knowledge of the matter said, 21st Century Fox reached a confidential agreement with Huddy.
The agreement resulted in Fox News paying Huddy a six-figure sum for her silence and her agreement not to sue, the sources said. The agreement also included clauses stating that O’Reilly and Abernethy made no admission of liability.
In a draft of a letter to 21st Century Fox, first reported on by LawNewz Monday and then obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday, Huddy’s lawyers said that O’Reilly tried to kiss her against her will, that he once appeared in his boxer shorts when answering her at the door, and that he repeatedly called her and that at times when he did it sounded like he was masturbating. Huddy’s lawyers declined to comment. CNNMoney has not seen the letter.
Representatives for both Fox News and O’Reilly have dismissed the allegations.
“The letter contains substantial falsehoods, which both men have vehemently denied,” Irena Briganti, a spokeswoman for Fox News also speaking on behalf of Abernethy and O’Reilly, said in a statement.
“There is absolutely no basis for any claim of sexual harassment against Bill O’Reilly by Juliet Huddy,” said Fredric Newman, O’Reilly’s lawyer.
Fox News signed Abernethy, by then a co-president, to a multiyear contract in September. A source with knowledge of the matter said 21st Century Fox was aware of the allegations when it signed the new deal with Abernethy.
The Huddy case was not O’Reilly’s first run-in with harassment allegations. In 2004, he was sued by Andrea Mackis, who had been a producer on his show, for making unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments — including allegedly telling her to use a vibrator “to blow off steam.” O’Reilly settled that lawsuit for millions of dollars with no admission of liability, according to reports at the time.
Fox News declined to make O’Reilly available for an interview, but in that mid-November appearance on CBS, he told the co-hosts he had “had enough” of people treating Fox News like a “piñata.”
“It’s a good place to work, all right? We do good work,” he said. “We do honest work there.”