Fox News and Bill O'Reilly 'pay out $13m' to settle harassment claims

Jon Sharman
Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly: REUTERS

Women have reportedly received some $13m (£10.4m) in settlements related to alleged sexual harassment or other inappropriate behaviour by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.

Five women have received payouts from either Mr O'Reilly himself or Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox following complaints about verbal abuse and unwanted sexual advances, according to an investigation by the New York Times.

The host of the O'Reilly Factor is one of Fox News' most successful personalities and has worked at the conservative network for two decades.

In 2016, after former chairman Roger Ailes was accused of sexual harassment by fellow host Gretchen Carlson, Mr O'Reilly called for a change in how legal costs are paid and criticised a "tremendously destructive" and "tabloid" society.

He said he stood by Mr Ailes, who later resigned, "100 per cent".

According to the New York Times, the settlements date back as far as 2002, when a female producer left the network following an alleged verbal abuse incident.

In a statement posted on his website, Mr O'Reilly, 67, said: "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.

"But most importantly, I'm a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.

"The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children.

"My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me."

He has denied any wrongdoing.

A spokesperson for 21st Century Fox said: "Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O'Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr O'Reilly.

"While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr O'Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr O'Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News."