By Matt Reagan
Fox News political commentator and star of the television show “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly, has recently been in hot water with reports of him being involved in a sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. The New York Times recently reported that dating back to 2002, O’Reilly has been sued five separate times by female Fox staffers accusing him of either verbal or sexual harassment. Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Gomez Diamond, Laurie Dhue, and Juliet Huddy have all reportedly received settlements from either Fox or Mr. O’Reilly himself that have totaled up to roughly $13 million. The two most recent settlements from this past year involved on-air personalities Laurie Dhue and Juliet Huddy. The common theme in these allegations is that O’Reilly was verbally abusive, made lewd comments, and made unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. The New York Times also reported that there seems to be a pattern in which Mr. O’Reilly befriends women at the workplace and promises to help them professionally. He would then later make sexual advances towards them, threatening that if they rejected him, it would be detrimental to their careers. O’Reilly has denied all of the accusations, claiming that there is a “big target on his back” since he is one of cable television’s highest grossing stars.
Notably, this is not the first time that a sexual harassment scandal at Fox News has made the news. Last year, former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes resigned after being sued by former Fox commentator Gretchen Carlson. Carlson claimed that she was fired from her show “Fox and Friends” after she had refused to sleep with Ailes. She reported that she received “disparaging treatment in in the newsroom” not only from Ailes, but also other male co-workers, such as her former co-host Steve Docoy. Following Carlen’s claims, Fox launched an internal investigation. The investigation resulted in other female employees at Fox coming forward to make similar allegations, including former anchor Megyn Kelly. The former star of the “Kelly File” has since moved on from Fox and has joined NBC news.
This apparent pattern of behavior at Fox News is troubling. This begs many questions for the news company. How deep do the scandals run within the company? Is there a long-standing or pervasive culture of sexual harassment towards women at Fox? Since the reports have included some of the company’s biggest names, this could have been a trickle down effect starting with Roger Ailes. Did Ailes as the top executive create or allow such a negative environment towards women to form? Without doubt, there appears to be now a potential pattern of male’s in high positions at Fox using their power and positions to seek to advance their sexual desires at work. Recently on CNN, civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom described the news station as “the Bill Cosby of corporate America” (CNN) and that “women over and over again are driven out.” As this scandal continues to unfold, it will be interesting to see how Fox handles their current situation and how they handle the Bill O’Reilly situation.
There has also been recent criticism towards Fox’s hypocrisy for how they have handled the scandals involving of O’Reilly. After Ailes’ scandals, an internal investigation was immediately started and he was pressured to resign. However, the scandal involving O’Reilly has apparently been treated differently as the company has yet to take action against him. The critics claim this is due to the fact that O’Reilly is their highest grossing star and Fox is thus treading lightly. This could be detrimental to the image of Fox News if reports continue to come out and the allegations spread. In a time where people are already critical of major news outlets in corporations, how Fox News handles this scandal will be closely monitored.