Megyn Kelly, who left Fox News for NBC following the sexual-harassment scandal that took down executive Roger Ailes, is disputing Bill O’Reilly’s lawyer’s claims that no one complained to the cable-news outlet managers about the former primetime host’s actions.
Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that in January, O’Reilly had reached a $32-million settlement with analyst Lis Wiehl, who had accused the then-Fox News host of inappropriate conduct that included “a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her.”
O’Reilly’s lawyer Mark Fabiani quickly refuted the story as “designed to embarrass…and to keep him from competing in the marketplace,” while declining to provide specific evidence to refute the allegations in the Times story.
“In the more than 20 years Bill O’Reilly worked at Fox News, not one complaint was filed against him with the Human Resources Department or Legal Department by a coworker, even on the anonymous hotline,” the statement said.
Speaking on her new namesake NBC News program, Kelly said today (Oct. 23) that while the atmosphere at Fox News was so toxic it was certainly “possible” that no one ever made an official complaint against O’Reilly, she herself had warned top brass at the company about his behavior, specifically his willingness to shame young women who brought up allegations of harassment.
She then made public an email from November 2016 that Kelly said she wrote to Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy, then co-presidents of Fox News, following a CBS News appearance in which O’Reilly said he was “not interested” in speaking about harassment claims at Fox, because “it makes my network look bad.”
Kelly said she was releasing the email now because “it speaks volumes about powerful men and the roadblocks one can face when taking them on.”
Per Kelly, the email reads, in part:
Perhaps he didn’t realize the kind of message his criticism sends to young women across this country about how men continue to view the issue of speaking out about sexual harassment.
Perhaps he didn’t realize that his exact attitude of shaming women into “shutting the hell up” about harassment on grounds that it will disgrace the company, is in part how Fox got into the decades-long Ailes mess to begin with.
Perhaps it’s his own history of harassment of women which has, as you both know, resulted in payouts to more than one woman, including recently, that blinded him to the folly of saying anything other than, “I am just so sorry for the women of this company, who never should have had to go through that.”
According to Kelly’s account, Shine, who was also ousted from the network in May, called her after receiving the email to assure her that the matter would be dealt with. Later that night, O’Reilly was permitted, with “management’s blessing” to use his program to “attack the company’s harassment victims yet again,” Kelly said.
Following Kelly’s statement on her NBC show, O’Reilly’s spokesperson promptly released two notes that Kelly had sent to O’Reilly in an attempt to discredit her criticism.
Since his ouster from Fox News in April, O’Reilly has consistently painted himself as the victim, calling the “unfounded” allegations against him politically and financially motivated.
In audio released on the Times’ daily podcast this morning, O’Reilly is heard lambasting the reporters who worked on the most recent piece about the Wiehl settlement, telling them his team had “physical proof that this is bullshit.”
“It’s on you if you want to destroy my children further, alright, because it’s all crap,” he said. “Why don’t you be human beings for once? This is horrible, it’s horrible what I went through, horrible what my family went through. This is crap and you know it.”
The Times says it fully stands by the story. “Mr. Fabiani addresses everything but what the story actually says,” the paper said in a statement. “This article, like our previous reporting on the subject, is accurate and deeply reported and we welcome any challenge to the facts.”
Another former Fox News personality, Gretchen Carlson, who settled her own sexual-harassment case against Ailes for $20 million and a public apology in September, was also unmoved by O’Reilly’s defense.