‘Outrageous’: Gretchen Carlson, others react to new Fox, O’Reilly revelation
WASHINGTON — “I think it’s horrifying and outrageous.”
Gretchen Carlson summed up how she felt about the latest revelation involving Bill O’Reilly and sexual harassment allegations on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday morning.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that O’Reilly paid $32 million to Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl, who threatened to sue him for alleged sexual misconduct.
According to the newspaper’s report, Wiehl’s complaints “included allegations of repeated harassment, a non-consensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her.” The story cited “people briefed on the matter.”
After the settlement deal was reached, Wiehl signed an affidavit that said she had “no claims against Bill O’Reilly,” according to The Times, which viewed the document.
The settlement was struck in January. It was supposed to stay secret. Weeks later, Fox News renewed O’Reilly’s contract, reportedly worth $25 million a year. A spokesman for 21st Century Fox said Saturday that the company knew about the existence of a new settlement during their contract negotiations, but not the exact amount.
“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,” the spokesman said.
“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 spokesman added. “The company subsequently acted based on the terms of this contract.”
Twitter and Facebook lit up about the jaw-dropping payment made by O’Reilly.
“Nobody pays $32m for false allegations – nobody,” Carlson tweeted.
Joy Reid of MSNBC commented: “Let me guess: you just had $32 million lying around and decided to give it to a nice lady you totally didn’t sexually assault.”
O’Reilly told the Times he never mistreated anyone and “this is crap.”
But in the wake of the new report, Fox is coming under fresh criticism for a “look the other way” approach to possible wrongdoing by TV stars.
“This deal really looks bad,” Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
O’Reilly was only fired after there was blowback from another Times story — a months-long investigation that revealed previously secret settlement payments to other O’Reilly accusers. The story came out on April 1. O’Reilly denied wrongdoing, but Fox opened an investigation and companies yanked ads from his show. Within weeks, he was replaced by Tucker Carlson.
O’Reilly didn’t go quietly. He said the accusations were part of a plot against him, and he vowed to expose the truth. He invested his time and money into a nightly podcast. And he sought a new job on TV.
While on a book tour in September, O’Reilly made his first appearance back on Fox since his ouster, sitting down with his former rival Sean Hannity on Hannity’s prime time show.
Carlson was critical of that appearance during an interview on “Reliable Sources” on Sunday.
“I think it’s horrifying and outrageous that any company, after dismissing somebody for allegations such as that,” would “allow that person to come back on the air,” Carlson said.
Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, was careful not to mention O’Reilly by name. She sued her former boss Roger Ailes last year, alleging harassment and retaliation, which triggered a chain of events that caused him to resign. Later, she signed a settlement agreement with Fox worth $20 million, and the agreement limited what she can say publicly about the network.
But in the interview on Sunday she identified a problem with the “corporate culture” at Fox and said similar issues exist at other companies. She cited the Weinstein Company as an example.
“This is covering up, this is enablers, this is shutting up the victims. And I think it’s absolutely horrifying that we’ve allowed this to go on for so long in our corporate culture.”
Earlier in the week Carlson released a book, titled “Be Fierce,” about sexual harassment in the workplace.
“We are on a movement to speak up and be heard, and there’s no turning back for women in the workplace,” she said.