Former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly settled an alleged sexual misconduct lawsuit for $32 million one month before the network renewed his contract. O'Reilly was let go from his primetime television slot after other settlement payments came to light, but was invited back for an interview on the network several months later.
On Oct. 21, an affidavit obtained by journalists disclosed that O'Reilly paid $32 million to settle a lawsuit filed against him by former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl. O'Reilly was accused of harassing Wiehl, having a nonconsensual sexual relationship with her and forwarding her sexually explicit materials, including gay pornography, The New York Times reports.
The amount O'Reilly paid Wiehl far exceeded any of the previous five settlements he had paid to end lawsuits alleging sexual harassment that were publicly known. The legal dispute with the Fox News alumni was settled on Jan. 17.
In February, 21st Century Fox renewed O'Reilly's contract for an annual $25 million over four years. The television host was fired on April 19 amid reports that he had settled several sexual harassment lawsuits. O'Relly was paid $25 million to be released from his contract with Fox News.
O'Reilly blasted the disclosure of his settlement with Wiehl, deeming the report "politically and financially motivated."
"This is horrible, it's horrible what I went through, horrible what my family went through," O'Reilly told The New York Times. "This is crap, and you know it."
O'Reilly spokesperson Mark Fabiani released a statement criticizing the report, asserting that it would damage the conservative pundit's efforts to find a new platform.
"The Times printed leaked information provided by anonymous sources that is out of context, false, defamatory, and obviously designed to embarrass Bill O'Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace," Fabiani said, according to CNN Media.
A 21st Century Fox spokesperson stated that the company knew about Wiehl's lawsuit against O'Reilly when it renewed his contract "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."
Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who had filed a lawsuit against the late Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes in July 2016, released a statement blasting the news network for allowing O'Reilly to be interviewed by current host Sean Hannity on Sept. 26.
"It's horrifying to think that any company would dismiss an employee following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and then allow him back on the air a few months later," Carlson said, according to The Hill.
On Oct. 21, Carlson tweeted, "Nobody pays $32m for false allegations - nobody."
On Oct. 23, Fox News alumni and current NBC host Megyn Kelly revealed she had emailed Fox News President Bill Shine about O'Reilly's behavior towards women in November 2016. Kelly added that Shine had told her he would deal with O'Reilly's allegedly inappropriate conduct.
"By 8 p.m. that night, O'Reilly had apparently been dealt with, and by that I mean he was permitted with management's advance notice and blessing to go on the air and attack the company's harassment victims yet again," Kelly said during a segment on "Today."
Kelly added: "The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation, the silencing of them after the fact. It has to stop."