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Fox News Secretly Settled Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Bill O’Reilly

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Following the sexual harassment scandal that resulted in Roger Ailes’ resignation from Fox News, the network reportedly secretly made a deal with TV personality Juliet Huddy about very similar accusations against its top host Bill O’Reilly. A letter obtained by the New York Times shows that Huddy had complained to Fox News that O’Reilly had persistently pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011, which she rejected. At the time he had a lot of power over her career and when she kept rejecting him, he tried to sabotage it.

According to the letter, which was sent from Huddy’s lawyers to Fox News, O’Reilly repeatedly called her, invited her to his home, took her out for dinners, tried to kiss her, and once opened the door only wearing underwear. Fox News solved the situation by paying Huddy a six-figure sum in exchange for her silence. But the company also denied that the allegations were true.

Huddy also accused long-time Fox executive Jack Abernethy of similar behavior, and said that he too had punished her professionally when she turned down his advances. But Fox News sided with O’Reilly and Abernethy. “The letter contains substantial falsehoods, which both men have vehemently denied,” said spokeswoman Irena Briganti on Monday. New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman tweeted that the network has settled sexual harassment complaints with at least four more women in the past few months.

Fox News apparently first learned about Huddy’s allegations in August, when her lawyers sent the letter. They agreed to the settlement on September 5, right around the time when they were dealing with Gretchen Carlson’s allegations against Roger Ailes. O’Reilly defended Ailes and called him the “best boss I’ve ever had.” He also claimed that Ailes was the victim, and was being targeted by the women because he was famous. He said: “In this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target. You’re a target, I’m a target. Anytime, somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press or anything like that.”

However, Ailes resigned, and Bill O’Reilly stayed on air and has since published two more books. To complicate things further, Roger Ailes is Huddy’s godfather and a good friend of her father, who also used to work at Fox. Her brother is also with the network.

This wasn’t the first time O’Reilly was the subject of sexual harassment accusations. In 2004, producer Andrea Mackris sued him for basically the same kind of behavior that Huddy claimed. He was also involved in a domestic dispute in 2015, when his teenage daughter testified in court that she had seen him choke her mother while he “dragged her down some stairs.”

Huddy used to have segments on O’Reilly’s show. The letter from her lawyers describes how when she rejected O’Reilly, he started nitpicking her work, berating her, stopped preparing her before going on air, and cancelled a segment that she used to have on his show. Afraid of further retaliation, she didn’t complain. In September, she left the network. A source who Lawnewz talked to does not believe her claims and said that they were just concocted to get money from the network. Huddy has never publicly spoken about her allegations. But considering her close family ties to Ailes and that the settlement came at a time when Fox News was being hit hard in the media, that is likely explained by a confidentiality agreement, or simple loyalty.

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at EVonZeipel@LawStreetMedia.com.

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