It’s no secret that Fox News is a sexual harassment safehouse, but new reports allege the network already knew about Bill O’Reilly’s harassing ways when they signed him to a $100 million contract extension.
O’Reilly, who had already settled five harassment suits, reached a $32 million agreement with an ex-longtime colleague in a sixth case only weeks before inking the four-year deal, The New York Times reported.
The massive payout was millions of dollars beyond the $20 million settlement reached by Fox with former host Gretchen Carlson — who had accused Chairman Roger Ailes of harassment.
Lis Wiehl alleged that O’Reilly sent her gay pornography and other sexually explicit material as part of his repeated harassment, the Times said.
She also alleged she was forced into a sexual relationship with O’Reilly.
The allegations brought by Wiehl against O’Reilly were settled in a stunningly-short period of time — just 15 days.
The Fox anchor saw a draft copy of the Wiehl lawsuit on Jan. 2, and the would-be plaintiff signed a Jan. 17 affidavit declaring the two had settled their issues.
As part of the deal, Wiehl agreed to destroy all photos, text messages and other communications between the two, the Times reported. She spent 15 years as an on-air analyst at the right-leaning network.
O’Reilly, in a combative interview with the Times, insisted he had done nothing wrong and only settled to spare his children from the publicity surrounding a trial.
“It’s politically and financially motivated, and we can prove it with shocking information,” O’Reilly claimed.
“But I’m not going to sit here in a courtroom for a year and a half, and let my kids get beaten up every single day of their lives by a tabloid press that would sit there, and you know it.”
A statement from 21st Century Fox confirmed they were aware of Wiehl’s charges when they reached their multi-million contract renewal with O’Reilly, 68, for his nightly program “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Fox officials were “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 statement read.
The network noted the new contract given to O’Reilly contained “added protections” for Fox in the event of further harassment allegations.
“The company subsequently acted based on the terms of this contract” to fire O’Reilly, the statement noted.
O’Reilly spokesman Mark Fabiani said the Fox offer of a “record-breaking new contract” for the embattled anchor came after “the company had analyzed and considered all the allegations against him.”
He further lambasted the Times report as “out of context, false, defamatory and obviously designed to embarrass Bill O’Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace.”
But the Times quoted an internal Fox memo from April regarding allegations of a company cover-up regarding Ailes and his harassment complaints.
The memo anticipated similar charges about O’Reilly: “They will insist on full knowledge of all complaints about (his) behavior in the workplace.”
O’Reilly continued his rant against the Times report on Twitter late Saturday, prompting a sly retort from Ailes’ accuser Carlson.
“Nobody pays $32m for false allegations — nobody,” she wrote.
That’s Fox News for you…