The revelation that Bill O’Reilly paid $32 million to a former Fox News colleague is shocking only in the settlement’s size and and timing. O’Reilly, of course, was removed from his perch as the king of Fox’s primetime lineup in April after The New York Times’s Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt reported on five previous settlements with women who had accused the host of sexual harassment.
According to Steel and Schmidt’s Saturday story, longtime Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl alleged “repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her.” Though Fox was already under fire at the time for its handling of complaints against Roger Ailes, the network rewarded O’Reilly with a new contract—and a significant raise—just a month after he settled with Wiehl.
Fox News is already under investigation by the US Department of Justice for its handling of harassment complaints, and the new reporting by the Times raises questions about the Murdochs’ handling of their company. The situation at Fox News could also cause trouble for 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over British broadcaster Sky.
The value of persistent reporting by Steel and Schmidt—like that of their colleagues Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in breaking the Harvey Weinstein story—can’t be overlooked when discussing the current focus on sexual harassment in the workplace. In the face of nondisclosure agreements and out-of-court settlements, the journalists got the story and changed the national conversation. Writing on the ties between O’Reilly and Weinstein, the Times’s Jim Rutenberg notes that, “a full, public airing did not come to be until those meddling reporters came along.”
Given the attention that Fox News hosts have paid to the Weinstein story, it will be interesting to see whether O’Reilly’s massive settlement receives much, or any, coverage from the network’s primetime opinionators and moralists. I’ll be watching Tucker Carlson tonight…
Below, more on O’Reilly, Fox News, and the “Weinstein effect.”
- More questions for the Murdochs: CNN’s Brian Stelter writes that Fox News leadership “now faces fresh questions about why it renewed O’Reilly’s contract at all, given that there were brand new allegations of misconduct at the time the contract negotiations were taking place.”
- O’Reilly’s response: O’Reilly’s lawyer claimed that the Times failed to report on “a sworn affidavit from his former lawyer, Lis Wiehl, repudiating all allegations against Bill O’Reilly.” The only problem with that argument: Steel and Schmidt quoted from the affidavit in their piece. Twice.
- Blackballed by the industry?: Margaret Sullivan’s column for The Washington Post looks at the repercussions faced by conservative media commentator Scottie Nell Hughes after she went public with rape charges against Fox Business host Charles Payne.
- The reach of the “Weinstein effect”: Vanity Fair’s Yohana Desta has an overview of the ways in which companies are taking complaints of sexual misconduct more seriously.
Other notable stories
- The Los Angeles Times’s Glenn Whipp spoke with 38 women—31 of whom went on the record—who accused director James Toback of sexual harassment.
- The New York Times’s Sopan Deb writes that the Newseum has never been more relevant, but its shaky financial footing means its future is in doubt.
- CJR’s Mathew Ingram predicts that new social media policies at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal will backfire. “To the extent that social media works…it works because it is social,” Ingram writes. “And being social means being human, and being human means expressing opinions, and in some cases being wrong.”
- As Jemele Hill makes her return from suspension today, The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis looks at what the future holds for the SportsCenter anchor.
- Eric Lipton’s excellent A1 story on a battle within the Environmental Protection Agency included this ridiculous statement from an agency spokesperson: “No matter how much information we give you, you would never write a fair piece. The only thing inappropriate and biased is your continued fixation on writing elitist clickbait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country.”