Fox Renewed Bill O’Reilly's Contract, Despite Knowing He Settled Sexual Assault Case

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Update: Megyn Kelly harshly denounced her former Fox News colleague Bill O'Reilly on her new show on NBC this morning.
"I spent this weekend on the phone nonstop, talking to many women at Fox News and otherwise, who are deeply disturbed over the latest New York Times report," she said on her show Megyn Kelly Today, in a departure from the show's usual sunny fare.
She also said that she had sent an email to Fox News heads last year, complaining about Bill O'Reilly's behavior. She shared part of the email.
"Perhaps he didn’t realize the kind of message his criticism sends to young women across the country about how men continue to view the issue of speaking out about sexual harassment," she wrote. "Perhaps it’s his own history of harassment of women which has, as you both knew, resulted in payouts to more than one woman, including recently, that blinded him to the folly of saying anything other than 'I am sorry for the women of this company who never should have gone through that.'"
This story was originally published on October 21, 2017, at 5:15 p.m.
Bill O’Reilly agreed to a $32 million settlement after being accused of sexual assault by longtime network analyst Lis Wiehl, the New York Times reports. The allegations include repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship, and sending sexually explicit material to her including pornography. Though the information is new to the public, it reveals that Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, was aware of Wiehl's complaints of sexual assault and harassment by Bill O’Reilly prior to his most recent contract negotiations.
It is at least the sixth, and by far the largest of his settlements to date, even larger than network head Roger Ailes' reported $20 million settlement to Gretchen Carlson after her allegations of sexual harassment. The news anchor was first fired after it became public that he had agreed to settlements dating back to 2002 with five women, totaling $13 million.
Even so, 21st Century Fox reportedly began contract negotiations with O’Reilly, Fox News' most lucrative host, and agreed to a four-year, extended contract paying him $25 million a year. Not only did the network defend him, but they also rewarded him. A representative for O'Reilly told the New York Times that once Fox News received a sworn affidavit from Wiehl "renouncing all allegations against him," it offered him "a recording breaking contract." According to Variety, this is a $5 million per year increase from his previous contract. The company emphasized that the new contract had provisions added allowing for O’Reilly's dismissal if new allegations or other relevant information arose.
“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,” read the company's statement. “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 public statements made by 21st Century Fox's public about its efforts to foster an inclusive and healthy working environment for all its employees ring hollow in light of this news.
In an interview with the New York Times, O'Reilly stood by the statement that he has done nothing wrong. "I never mistreated anyone," he said claiming that he could prove that the allegations against him were "politically and financially motivated."
The only financial motivation that seems readily apparent is Fox News' desire to keep their star anchor and money-maker at all costs. They are willing to acknowledge that they knew about the string of allegations, yet they are unwilling to do anything about it. Bill O'Reilly's contract renewal supports the toxic abuse of power repeatedly brought to light through the sexual harassment and assault accusations made against himself, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Donald Trump, and countless others.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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