Former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly paid $32 million to settle a sexual harassment claim a month before Fox News extended his contract, The New York Times
Two people briefed on the matter told the Times that 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, knew about the complaints against O’Reilly, which were brought by Fox analyst Lis Wiehl.
The complaint contained allegations of sexual harassment and a nonconsensual sexual relationship with O’Reilly, among other allegations, and was settled for $32 million in January, the Times said.
21st Century Fox and O’Reilly reached a four-year contract extension worth $25 million the following month.
The company announced in April that O’Reilly would not return to Fox News after the Times reported that five women were paid $13 million to settle sexual harassment suits against the network host.
21st Century Fox said in a statement to the newspaper Saturday that the $32 million settlement was reached between O’Reilly and Wiehl as a result of a “personal issue” between them.
On the decision to renew O’Reilly’s contract, the company said Fox News “surely would have wanted to renew” his contract due to O’Reilly being “the biggest star in cable TV.”
21st Century Fox also said terms were added to O’Reilly’s new contract, which permitted his ouster from Fox if any additional revelations surfaced.
O’Reilly denied the allegations in an interview with the Times, saying, “I never mistreated anyone.”
“It’s politically and financially motivated,” he said, adding “and we can prove it with shocking information, 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.”
O’Reilly’s spokesman said The Times’ story was designed to embarrass the conservative talkshow host.
“Once again, The New York Times has maliciously smeared Bill O’Reilly, this time even failing to print an affidavit from his former lawyer Lis Wiehl, repudiating all allegations against Bill O’Reilly. The Times ignored that evidence, sworn under oath, and chose to rely on unsubstantiated allegations, anonymous sources and incomplete leaked or stolen documents,” Mark Fabiani said in a statement on Saturday.
The settlement marks the sixth and largest agreement reached by O’Reilly and the company to settle harassment allegations against him, according to the Times.
Wiehl, 56, appeared on a weekly segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” called “Is it Legal?” with former attorney and current host of “The Five” Kimberly Guilfoyle.
Wiehl appeared on the network for 15 years starting in 2001 when the Harvard Law graduate joined as a legal analyst.
Her $32 million settlement dwarfs that given to former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who received $20 million from the network in 2016 after suing Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who passed away in May.
The O’Reilly news comes as Fox continues to outpace its cable news competition on the ratings front despite losing three prime time hosts in O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren in the past 13 months, as well as “The Five” and “Cashin’ In” co-host Eric Bolling, who was also ousted from the network last month amid sexual harassment allegations.
The settlement came as the company said it was trying to improve its workplace culture in the wake of numerous allegation made against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.
Ailes was fired as a result of the accusations.
Updated: 6:30 p.m.
Joe Concha contributed to this report