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Fox renewed Bill O’Reilly deal despite harassment suit


Fox renewed Bill O'Reilly deal despite harassment suit

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption O'Reilly is known to have settled at least six sexual harassment suits

Former Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly was handed a new contract in January, despite the network's parent company knowing he had recently settled a sexual harassment case.

The $32m (£24m) settlement was paid to former Fox legal analyst Lis Wiehl, according to the New York Times.

In a statement, parent company 21st Century Fox said was aware of the settlement, but not the sum, when it signed a $25m-a-year contract renewal.

O'Reilly has denied any wrongdoing.

He was forced to resign in April following a raft of sexual harassment allegations.

The settlement with Wiehl – which was "extraordinarily large" for such cases, according to the Times – is one of six involving O'Reilly that are in the public domain, totalling $45m.

Several of those suits also involved former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who stepped down in 2016 amid accusations of harassment.

'Leaked information'

Wiehl had worked for Fox for 15 years at the time of the settlement with O'Reilly and appeared regularly on his show The O'Reilly Factor. She left at the time of the settlement.

"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," 21st Century Fox said in a statement.

The company signed a $25 million-per-year deal with the commentator, but added corporate protections against future allegations of harassment against him.

O'Reilly denied the allegations to the New York Times. "I have never mistreated anyone," he said, adding that he had resolved matters with Wiehl privately because he wanted to spare his children from controversy.

The commentator was forced to resign in April after a string of smaller settlements was reported by the Times and advertisers pulled out of his programme.

In a statement to Reuters, Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for O'Reilly, criticised the Times for printing "leaked information… that is out of context, false, defamatory, and obviously designed to embarrass Bill O'Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace".

He also denounced newspaper for not printing what he said was an affidavit signed by Wiehl withdrawing her allegations following the settlement.

The disclosure of the Wiehl settlement follows a string of sexual assault allegations against Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein, including accusations of rape, that sparked a international conversation about harassment in the film industry and beyond.

Weinstein, 65, who was sacked by his own production firm, The Weinstein Company, and suspended by the board of the Oscars, has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

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