Federal judge denies Bill O’Reilly’s move to seal harassment settlements

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A federal judge has reportedly blocked former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s motion to seal his past harassment settlements in a defamation case against him. 

Judge Deborah Batts of New York ruled on Tuesday that O’Reilly “failed to present compelling countervailing factors” that would overrule public access to the documents, CNN reported Wednesday.

O’Reilly “has not even come close to rebutting this First Amendment presumption” that favors releasing the documents, Batts said.

{mosads}Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Gomez Diamond and Rachel Witlieb Bernstein say in their lawsuit that O’Reiley, Fox News and 21st Century Fox smeared them by calling them liars and extortionists regarding their claims of sexual misconduct against the former host.

The ruling will bring to light the settlement agreements the women made with O’Reilly to keep their allegations quiet.

CNN reported Wednesday that Mackris’s settlement required her to “lie — even in legal proceedings or under oath — if any evidence becomes public, by calling evidence ‘counterfeit’ or ‘forgeries.’”

The former Fox News producer filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against O’Reilly in 2004.

During the settlement for that case, her attorney, Benedict Morelli, reportedly switched sides and agreed to work as O’Reilly’s lawyer.

“This profoundly unethical conflict left Ms. Mackris virtually without legal counsel,” the filing said.

Morelli said in a statement to The Hill that every step was taken to negotiate the best possible deal for Mackris. 
“We worked extremely hard to secure a significant financial settlement for her,” the statement said. “The claim that I did not vigorously represent her, or that I represented O’Reilly during or after the settlement process, is absolutely false.”

The three women said in Wednesday’s court documents that they were “forced to relinquish audio and video tapes recording O’Reilly’s harassment and abuse.”

They argue that a longtime private investigator and Fox News guest, Bo Dietl, investigated Mackris and accumulated “tapes, photographs, emails, letters, calendars and diaries.”

Dietl told CNN that he was hired by the law firm that represented O’Reilly and Fox News in that case.

“There’s a reason we’re in a business for 33 years. We don’t do anything illegal or improper,” Dietl said. “All we do is find out the truth, and whatever we find we submit to the attorneys and they do what they want to do.”

O’Reilly has denied the allegations but was ousted from the network last year in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

He has said he agreed to the settlements to spare his children from public embarrassment and that he’s “mad at God” for what’s he’s faced.

Updated: 1:30 p.m.

Tags 21st Century Fox Bill O'Reilly Bo Dietl Fox News sexual harassment allegations Sexual misconduct

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