Responding to reported payouts amounting to as much as $17 million to settle accusations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly says he is “vulnerable to lawsuits” because of his high-profile job,
O’Reilly posted the statement on his website after a New York Times report, and Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox backed his spin on the latest scandal rocking Rupert Murdoch’s cable-news operation.
The newspaper reported that O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox have paid $US13 million ($A17 million) to five women since 2002 over these complaints “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him”.
The story said more than 60 people were interviewed, including current and former employees of Fox News, its parent company and people who know the women behind the complaints or are close to O’Reilly. Most demanded anonymity.
21st Century Fox, which is still dealing with the legal fallout from sexual harassment charges against former Fox News head Roger Ailes, did not reply to questions about the O’Reilly payouts or whether any disciplinary action was taken against the right-wing cable host.
But the company said in a statement that it had looked into “these matters” in the past few months and discussed them with O’Reilly.
The company said O’Reilly denied the merits of “these claims” but has “resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility”.
The company said it “takes matters of workplace behaviour very seriously” and that “Mr O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”
O’Reilly’s statement did not deny the payments.
“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” it said.