CNN's Brian Stelter: Bill O'Reilly Has Been Counseled To “Not Address” Accusations Of Sexual Harassment
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Mercedes-Benz: “Given The Importance Of Women In Every Aspect Of Our Business, We Don’t Feel This Is A Good Environment In Which To Advertise”
Following the latest revelations and allegations of sexual misconduct involving Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Mercedes-Benz announced that they would no longer be advertising during The O’Reilly Factor time slot.
On April 1, The New York Times reported that five women received payments totaling nearly $13 million from either O’Reilly or Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their” allegations of sexual harassment involving O’Reilly. The allegations include “verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating.”
Mercedes-Benz called the most recent allegations, “disturbing” and in a statement given to CNNMoney, the company said: “Given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.”
CNN reached out to more than 20 companies and brands that have previously run ads during O’Reilly’s show, but Mercedes-Benz was the only one to confirm they are pulling their advertising from the show. Lexus said they would “monitor the situation” while Jenny Craig refused to “publicly comment on our advertising strategy” and the dog food brand Nutrish refused to comment “on anything related to our media buy.”
O’Reilly has denied all the claims.
UPDATE: On April 3, Claritin sponsored Bill O'Reilly's opening Talking Points Memo segment.
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The latest gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by a Fox News contributor shows that the network and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, never sought to fix the toxic misogyny that the network has fostered, contributing to a culture of sexual misconduct by the men in power.
On April 3, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky filed a lawsuit against Fox News, former CEO Roger Ailes, and current co-President Bill Shine alleging that Ailes and the network “discriminated against Roginsky on the basis of her gender” and “retaliated” against her “when she refused to have a sexual relationship with Ailes.”
According to the complaint:
Fox News and Ailes discriminated against Roginsky on the basis of her gender by making her deserved promotion to a regular spot hosting "The Five" contingent upon having a sexual relationship with Ailes. Fox News and Ailes thereafter retaliated against Plaintiff when she refused to have a sexual relationship with Ailes. Shine aided and abetted the discrimination and retaliation by Fox News and Ailes by failing to take reasonable measures to protect Roginsky from, and condoning, the unlawful conduct. Fox News and Shine further retaliated against Plaintiff by refusing to give her the promised permanent hosting position for which she was well-qualified. Defendants Fox News and Shine also retaliated against Plaintiff because she refused to publicly disparage Gretchen Carlson when Carlson filed sexual harassment claims against Ailes in July 2016.
In the lawsuit, Roginsky also said that no one, including those who knew about the alleged harassment, “advised Roginsky to contact attorneys at the Paul Weiss law firm who were reportedly investigating Ailes' pattern of sexual harassment at Fox News. Nor did anyone at Paul Weiss ever contact Roginsky.” Additionally, “Fox News never investigated Roginsky’s complaints.”
The internal investigation regarding Ailes, led by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, was launched after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against the network leader in July 2016, which eventually forced Ailes to leave the network. Since Carlson filed her lawsuit, at least 20 women have come forward saying Ailes had harassed them, including former Fox host Megyn Kelly.
But questions remained about the investigation’s independence and efficacy. As The New York Times reported, “The firm was retained by 21st Century Fox not only to investigate but also to provide legal advice. (The rarer true independent review would preclude legal advice.)” Additionally, Vanity Fair found that the firm “was apparently never ordered to scour the company’s hard drives for all evidence of sexual harassment or bawdy culture,” and, “In some ways, according to one person familiar with the process, the Paul, Weiss investigation simply got a revenue machine back on track.”
Fox News’ toxic misogyny is readily apparent on air, but behind the scenes, women at Fox face rampant harassment. A New York Times investigation found that Fox and host Bill O’Reilly have settled lawsuits totaling $13 million with five women who claimed that O’Reilly harassed them. A separate Times piece reported that current and former Fox employees described “instances of harassment and intimidation that went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace.” And top Fox News executives reportedly knew about the pattern and chose to cover it up.
Roginsky’s allegations can put to rest any question regarding whether Fox News cared about cleaning up its pattern of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. It didn’t.
One of Fox News’ co-presidents has been accused of coordinating a campaign to silence women who accuse their bosses of sexual harassment. The other has personally been accused of sexual harassment.
Is it any wonder the women of Fox might hesitate to make internal complaints about their treatment at the network?
As part of their coordinated response to The New York Times’ bombshell investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly, both the Fox host and the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, have zeroed in on the talking point that no one has ever filed a complaint with the company against O’Reilly.
“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,” 21st Century Fox told the Times in a statement. “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,” the Fox host added.
Fox and O’Reilly have settled sexual harassment allegations against him by four former Fox employees, and two women have made similar charges, according to the Times investigation. The investigation comes as the network is still trying to recover its reputation after last summer’s revelation that former Fox CEO Roger Ailes had engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment against Fox employees.
There’s little reason to accept the “hotline” talking point as true, absent an independent investigation into the $13 million in settlements that Fox and its top star have paid to women who accused him of workplace sexual harassment. But it would hardly be surprising if the women of Fox specifically were hesitant to report O’Reilly, given the network’s history of covering up such claims.
Notably, Fox News co-presidents Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy have both been accused of participating in Fox’s culture of sexual harassment. And each has been linked to separate allegations against O’Reilly himself.
When then-Fox host Andrea Tantaros came to Shine with an allegation of sexual harassment by a powerful man at the network, she was told to keep quiet, she says.
Tantaros alleges in a complaint filed last year against Shine, Ailes, and the network that in spring 2015 she met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment.” According to the complaint, Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’” In the suit, Tantaros alleges that in early 2016, O’Reilly had asked “her to come to stay with him on Long Island where it would be ‘very private,’” and repeatedly told her “that he could ‘see [her] as a wild girl.’”
This was reportedly not unusual for Shine, who played a key role in silencing and smearing Ailes’ alleged victims. Indeed, in a lawsuit revealed this morning featuring new accusations of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky alleges that Shine retaliated against her because she refused to publicly attack one of Ailes’ other accusers.
For his part, Abernethy has been accused not of aiding and abetting Fox’s culture of sexual harassment -- but of participating in it.
Last year, 21st Century Fox settled with Juliet Huddy for $1.6 million after her lawyers “told the company that Mr. O’Reilly pursued a sexual relationship in 2011, at a time he exerted significant influence over her airtime,” the Times reported.
But O’Reilly was not the only Fox employee implicated by Huddy. As the Times reported last year, Huddy’s lawyers alleged that Abernethy “had retaliated against [Huddy] professionally after she made clear that she was not interested in a personal relationship.”
“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” the company said in its statement to the Times. The network takes the matters so seriously that in the months since a massive sexual harassment scandal forced out the network’s founder, O’Reilly’s contract has been extended and Shine and Abernethy have been promoted.
At every turn, Fox’s response to these serious allegations has been damage control. It’s long past time for the network to clean house.
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The intersectional discrimination women of color often face while doing their jobs was put on full display this past week when Fox host Bill O’Reilly and White House press secretary Sean Spicer attacked Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and veteran journalist April Ryan on their appearance and body language, respectively. The incidences, which both occurred in unusually public settings, inadvertently shined a light on the discrimination women of color too often face in their workplaces, while the subsequent reactions from right-wing media underscored the problems that hold women of color back.
This week, cable TV viewers watched as O’Reilly mocked Waters’ hair, saying, “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.” That same day, Spicer lashed out at Ryan -- who had previously been at the receiving end of President Donald Trump’s overtly racist remarks -- interrupting their back-and-forth to comment, “Please stop shaking your head again.” The same week, The New York Times reported that two female African-American Fox News employees were suing the network over “top-down racial harassment” that was “reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.”
The pile-on of attacks revealed a unique obstacle women of color confront in their daily lives: the compounding effects of gender and racial discrimination. Researchers acknowledge that there is a dearth of research examining the intersection between sexist and racist attacks in the workplace. A number of studies, however, have revealed concerning statistics about barriers to success that women of color face. CNN reported on a University of California Hastings College of the Law study, writing, “While 66% of the women scientists [professor Joan] Williams studied (including white women) reported having to provide more evidence of competence than men, 77% of black women said they experienced that.” There have been multiple studies that highlight “unconscious bias” against women, and others that reveal more overt discrimination -- both of which have serious consequences in the long run.
Additionally, research shows that sexual harassment is more prevalent for women of color than it is for white women. Researchers at Fordham University School of Law attributed this phenomenon to “racialized sex stereotypes that pervade sexual harassment.”
The problems surrounding equal pay exemplify the issues unique to women of color. Recent research on the gender pay gap by the American Association of University Women found that “progress” to close income disparities between genders “has stalled in recent years” and that the pay gaps between genders and between racial/ethnic groups “cannot be explained by factors known to affect earnings and is likely due, at least in part, to discrimination.” The Center for American Progress recently found that while women overall earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, that gap widens by 19 cents for black women compared to white men. This “translates into an average lifetime earnings gap of $877,480 for each African-American woman versus her white male counterparts.” Latina women appear to fare even worse than other minorities; Pew Research Center estimated that in 2015, Latinas earned 58 cents for every dollar a man earned compared to the 82 cents per dollar that white women earn.
Furthermore, conservative media outlets often obfuscate the issue of gender and racial discrimination in the workplace, which creates an obstacle in addressing the root of the problem. Right-wing media have repeatedly justified -- or denied the existence of -- the gender pay gap and have attempted to undermine progress in closing the gap.
And while many people rallied in support of Waters and Ryan, many conservative figures ignored, defended, or even cheered on the assailants. USA Today pointed out that “Breitbart, the news site with ties to Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, didn't appear to mention O'Reilly's comment, but published a post called ‘Maxine Waters: Something is “wrong” with Trump “He doesn't deserve to be president.”'” One conservative pundit covered up for O’Reilly’s sexist and racist commentary, falsely equating his attack on Waters to liberals calling Trump “orange.” Spicer received a similar wave of support from conservative outlets for his attacks on Ryan.
Experts say that the discrimination that women of color face while doing their jobs is difficult to prove. But this past week, cable TV viewers witnessed them firsthand. Impunity for O'Reilly and Spicer after their attacks on Waters and Ryan could make it even more difficult for women of color to eliminate barriers to their success.
Illustration by Dayanita Ramesh.
Over the past two years, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has drawn attention to President Barack Obama's clothing at a Muslim wedding and claimed Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-CA) was wearing a “James Brown wig,” called “many” African-Americans “ill-educated” with “tattoos on their foreheads,” and praised the workplace conditions of the slaves who built the White House. A co-worker accused him of reducing her on-air time on his show after she turned down his repeated sexual advances. His yarns about heroically covering conflicts in the Falkland Islands, El Salvador, and Northern Ireland were exposed as fiction. His latest biography was rejected as "a disservice to history” written by "an opportunistic interloper" who "debases the historian's craft." This fall marks the 10th anniversary of O’Reilly’s shocked declaration that African-American patrons at a famous Harlem restaurant weren’t screaming expletives at the waitstaff.
Given this track record, what would it take for Fox News to fire Bill?
The reason O’Reilly has been untouchable is simple: He makes Fox News a lot of money. His show anchors Fox’s prime-time programming, bringing in the most viewers in cable news for 17 years, according to the network.
There is no heir apparent. It’s difficult to imagine an Eric Bolling or Greg Gutfeld filling O’Reilly’s seat. If the network loses him, it’s screwed. And so Fox excuses offenses that would get talent at other networks -- or lesser lights at Fox -- kicked to the curb.
Don Imus, Juan Williams, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Curt Schilling, Pat Buchanan, and Laura Schlessinger were pushed out of CBS and MSNBC, NPR, CNN, ESPN, MSNBC, and her radio show, respectively, for making the sort of racially charged remarks that are a regular staple of O'Reilly's programming.
Fox executives have a much higher tolerance for on-air bigotry (they hired Dobbs, Imus, and Williams after their scandals on other networks) but even they dropped E.D. Hill and Emily Austen after they made racially charged remarks.
The latest controversy over O’Reilly’s casually racist attack on Waters is instructive. Seeking to stem the onslaught of criticism, a statement was released under O’Reilly’s name that minimized his comments but included the phrase “I apologize.” The statement circulated widely and was described by some journalists as O’Reilly “express[ing] regret.” Hours later, speaking to his own audience, the Fox host laughed his way through a similar statement before attacking Waters’ patriotism and dog-whistling some comments about her support for the “entitlement system.”
Fox doesn’t appear to care about what O’Reilly says. It just does damage control.
Journalists depend on the willingness of their audiences to believe them. That makes fabricating a story the profession’s greatest sin.
When questions were raised about tales Brian Williams had told about his reporting exploits, NBC News convened an internal investigation of Williams’ claims that eventually led to his removal as anchor of Nightly News. Over the years, The New York Times’ Jayson Blair, The Washington Post’s Janet Cooke, and The New Republic’s Stephen Glass have all lost their jobs when stories they reported were exposed as inventions.
O’Reilly spent much of 2015 trying to salvage his journalistic credibility after Mother Jones, Media Matters, and others dismantled a host of tall tales he had told about his journalism career. His incredible claims about reporting from the battlefield during the Falklands War, being present for the suicide of a key figure in the John F. Kennedy assassination, seeing “nuns get shot in the back of the head” during the civil war in El Salvador and “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast,” and getting “attacked by protesters” during the Los Angeles riots were all false.
Rather than investigate the allegations, as a credible news network would, Fox sent O’Reilly out to deny the claims in interviews and on his program. As the fabrications mounted, the network released a statement attacking O’Reilly’s critics and saying they would no longer respond to the “accusation du jour.”
For Fox, evidence that its top host had concocted stories about his past work was an attack to be deflected, not a serious allegation to be reviewed.
Fox spent much of last summer embroiled in a massive scandal over dozens of allegations of sexual harassment by its employees against its founder and CEO, Roger Ailes. After an internal review, Ailes resigned.
But just weeks after Ailes’ termination, Fox’s parent company paid off former contributor Juliet Huddy to keep her from filing a lawsuit accusing O’Reilly of sexually harassing her for years and using his position to punish her when she rebuffed him (O’Reilly and the company denied the allegations).
This was at least the second time O’Reilly had been accused of workplace sexual harassment; he settled a 2004 lawsuit by one of his show’s producers for millions of dollars. It’s unclear if the network has taken any steps to protect its employees from its star’s advances.
By Fox News’ own standards and the standards of the rest of journalism, O’Reilly should have been fired long ago.
But O’Reilly seems to be worth more to Fox than its reputation with African-Americans offended by his comments, or its duty to other employees who might be subjected to his sexual entreaties, or its stature as an outlet that cares about journalism. Until the network’s executives start caring about something more than the bottom line, or O’Reilly’s ratings fall, or he finally does something so terrible that it offends the right stakeholders, his position at the network will remain secure.
When Fox fired an executive just this week over racist remarks she allegedly made to African-American co-workers, the network put out a statement claiming, “There is no place for abhorrent behavior like this at Fox News.
Apparently there is a place for that behavior: hosting the network’s highest-rated broadcast.
UPDATE: A New York Times investigation has uncovered two more settlements involving sexual harassment claims against O'Reilly from network employees, as well as a former Fox guest who "said [O'Reilly's] offer to make her a contributor never materialized after she declined an invitation to go to his hotel suite after a dinner in 2013." The bombshell April 1 report includes this horrifying paragraph:
The reporting suggests a pattern: As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.
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Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was widely criticized for his racist remarks in which he mocked the hair of an African-American congresswoman, saying it looked like she was wearing a “James Brown wig.” This isn’t the first time O’Reilly has made such comments; in fact, he has a history of saying racist things.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly issued a statement apologizing to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig.”
During an appearance on Fox & Friends this morning, O’Reilly responded to a clip of Waters criticizing President Donald Trump’s supporters by saying, “I didn't hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it's the same wig.”
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy replied, “It’s the same one,” and Brian Kilmeade added, “And he's not using it anymore. They just -- they finally buried him.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt took issue with O’Reilly’s comments, saying, “I've got to defend her on that. I have to defend her on that. She's a -- you can't go after a woman's looks. I think she's very attractive.” O’Reilly responded, “I didn’t say she wasn’t attractive. I love James Brown, but it's the same hair.”
In a statement to Business Insider, he said: “As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs. I said that again today on Fox & Friends calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.”
He will reportedly address his comments on tonight’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor. It is unlikely that any apology tonight will be sincere -- on Twitter, he has promised a "big political correctness" segment on the show.