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Bill O’Reilly claims The New York Times’ latest bombshell is just “another smear article” against him. But he has not disputed the facts surrounding his $32 million settlement with longtime Fox News colleague Lis Wiehl, who was a legal analyst for the network.
O’Reilly is expected to say more about the matter on Monday. Wiehl, meanwhile, has remained silent, in accordance with the terms of the extraordinary settlement payment.
The new O’Reilly revelations were a top story on TV and in the papers on Monday. The Times released new audio from its interview with the dethroned Fox News star, and it’s clear from the tape that O’Reilly feels he is the real victim.
“We have physical proof that this is bullshit. Bullshit. Okay? So it’s on you if you want to destroy my children further,” O’Reilly told Times reporters Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt.
He repeatedly brought up his children, who have been the subject of a long-running custody battle.
“Why don’t you be human beings for once?” O’Reilly said to the Times reporters. “This is horrible. It’s horrible what I went through. Horrible what my family went through.”
He asserted that he paid the settlements not because he was guilty of sexual harassment, but because he wanted to avoid trials that would hurt his family.
He added: “This is crap. And you know it. It’s politically and financially motivated. And we can prove it with shocking information.”
O’Reilly has repeatedly made this claim in interviews and on his nightly podcast, with little to show for it.
On Saturday, hours after the Times story about the $32 million settlement came out, O’Reilly tweeted: “My investigative team has done a superb job in exposing the lies and smear. I will speak with you on Monday.”
O’Reilly has been actively seeking a new TV job. His spokesman Mark Fabiani asserted that the leaks to the Times were “obviously designed to embarrass Bill O’Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace.”
On CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Steel had a different account. She and Schmidt had been pursuing information about the Wiehl settlement “for a while,” she said, but they weren’t able to confirm it for their first story about O’Reilly’s secret settlements, which was published back in April.
O’Reilly denied wrongdoing then too, but Fox opened an investigation and companies yanked ads from his show. Within weeks, he was replaced by Tucker Carlson.
The Times continued to look into his conduct with Wiehl. It turned out that the settlement payment dwarfed all the past deals involving O’Reilly or other Fox employees accused of misconduct.
Wiehl had come forward and threatened to sue O’Reilly in January. The deal was struck in a matter of days, according to The Times. CNN has independently confirmed the $32 million figure and reviewed a copy of Wiehl’s affidavit in the case.
Why O’Reilly was willing to pay Wiehl so much money is the crux of the mystery.
“Her allegations included repeated sexual harassment during her 15-year tenure as a legal analyst at Fox News,” Steel said. “We also know that she made allegations of a nonconsensual sexual relationship, and that her allegations included that he sent her pornographic material that included gay pornography.”
Speaking on The Daily, a podcast produced by the Times, Schmidt said “I think that he was concerned about the gay pornography stuff.”
The podcast contained clips from Schmidt and Steel’s interview with O’Reilly, which took place a few days before the story about the $32 million settlement came out.
“Leaks are not facts. Leaks are designed to hurt people, and surely you both know that,” O’Reilly told the reporters.
He defended his workplace conduct, saying that in his 43-year career, “I’ve never had one complaint filed against me by a co-worker in any Human Resources department.”
Then, “all of a sudden, all of this stuff happens, and the pain it brings to my children is indescribable,” O’Reilly said.
At times during the interview he was subdued; at other times, he was angry.
The settlement agreement was supposed to remain a secret. O’Reilly’s spokesman emphasized over the weekend that Wiehl withdrew her complaint when the settlement deal was struck.
Wiehl’s affidavit, dated January 17, affirms that she considered suing, but says, “we have since resolved all of our issues. I would no longer make the allegations contained in the draft complaint.”
The next day, she told colleagues that she was leaving Fox News.
Three months later, O’Reilly left too, booted by the network. He was welcomed back for an interview with Sean Hannity last month — his first time back on Fox since the scandal.
In the wake of the newly embarrassing headlines about the $32 million, a return appearance is exceedingly unlikely.
CNNMoney (New York) First published October 23, 2017: 9:53 AM ET
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