Caution: You are now entering the…no job zone? FOX News star Bill O’Reilly is in big trouble. Announcing last Tuesday that he is going on a “long-planned” vacation, it remains to be seen if he returns to The Factor. One thing and one thing only drives decisions in cable television news—money. While the network likely doesn’t care about any negative publicity generated by the disclosure that FNC paid millions to settle sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly, when the sponsors start to walk, the bigwigs start to panic.
News that FOX News paid $13 million to settle these claims roiled the top-rated show but it was the desertion of sponsors that sent the Murdochs, the guys who run FOX News, into a tizzy. Coming off the Roger Ailes fiasco, the good ol’ boys may have had enough.
And now there’s this.
O’Reilly finally responded to the allegations over the weekend. “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline,” O’Reilly said. That’s what we call a non-denial denial, folks.
It’s also not true.
The fact that O’Reilly is an alleged misogynistic harasser may be news to some (especially the head-in-the-sand FOX News viewers). However, The Shad has a personal story to tell on the topic. It happened nearly 17 years ago. Different time, same allegation.
Back in the early 2000s, I worked as the communications director for a religious and civil right nonprofit in Manhattan. It was my job to tell the story of people defamed, abused or otherwise attacked for holding their religious views. We fought for Americans’ rights to live and participate in society free of religious persecution.
It was in this role I was invited to appear on “The O’Reilly Factor.” The topic was a series of vandalism and desecrations of religious statues in Brooklyn. The Catholic Churches at which these statues were located were singled out.
I was booked on the show by Andrea Mackris (she was publicly identified when she filed a lawsuit against O’Reilly). I came to know Andrea as a top-notch, competent, effective booker for FOX News. She was a 33-year old journalist at the time and had a horrible experience working for O’Reilly.
The sordid details are here but suffice it to say, Andrea accused O’Reilly of lewd behavior, the same kind of alleged behavior that led the network to shell out the millions to other women. Mackris and O’Reilly settled out of court.
Women’s groups this time around aren’t sitting idly by. Several groups will protest Tuesday outside the News Corps building in midtown Manhattan, the site of the FOX News studios. They’ll call for the firing of O’Reilly.
Additional new reports say O’Reilly’s behavior contributed to the decision by former FOX star Megyn Kelly to leave money on the table and jump ship to NBC. (Kelly had dispatched the interminable, half-a-whack job to 10 p.m. when she took over the 9 p.m. time slot).
When Andrea Mackris booked me on the show some 17 years ago, I was struck by the security desk outside the studio where The O’Reilly Factor was taped. Behind the security guards was a long wall on which pictures of “people to watch for” were posted. This was so the guards to watch for people who had threatened FOX News personalities. Each on-air personality had a section of the wall, except for O’Reilly—he had a wall all to himself.
I can tell you firsthand that in person, O’Reilly is in fact the tool he seems be on his show. Arrogant, always right and it’s-all-about-me accurately describe him. With adulation and hero worship comes the thought that one can do as one pleases.
He’s been this way for years. [WARNING: Graphic Language]:
What goes around comes around. It’s coming around.