The public is getting a first glimpse at Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements after a federal judge blocked the former Fox News host’s motion to seal them in a defamation case against him.
Judge Deborah Batts of New York ruled Tuesday that O’Reilly “failed to present compelling countervailing factors” that would overrule public access to the documents, CNN reported.
“Defendant O’Reilly asks the Court to resolve a dispute by relying on the very Agreements he seeks to shield from public view,” Batts wrote.
According to the documents, Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Gomez Diamond and Rachel Witlieb Bernstein said that O’Reilly, Fox News and 21st Century Fox defamed them by calling them liars and extortionists when he denied any wrongdoing.
The agreement between O’Reilly and Mackris — a former Fox News producer — demanded that all parties in the case disclaim any evidence “as counterfeit or forgeries” should it be made public, which Mackris’ lawyers argued Wednesday, required her to “lie.”
Mackris filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against O’Reilly in 2004.
In another twist, CNN reported Wednesday that the new filing by Mackris’ lawyers noted that her attorney during the settlement, Benedict Morelli, switched sides and became O’Reilly’s lawyer during negotiations.
“This profoundly unethical conflict left Ms. Mackris virtually without legal counsel,” the filing said.
Morelli told TheWrap in a statement: “Every step we took was to negotiate the best possible deal for Ms. Mackris. We worked extremely hard to secure a significant financial settlement for her. 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 women further contend that they were “forced to relinquish audio and video tapes recording O’Reilly’s harassment and abuse,” arguing that Bo Dietl, a private investigator and frequent Fox News commentator, accumulated “tapes, photographs, emails, letters, calendars and diaries” while investigating Mackris.
Dietl told CNN that he was hired by the law firm that represented O’Reilly and Fox News.
“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.”
All three women said that they were smeared by statements made by O’Reilly, Fox News and 21st Century Fox. Mackris and Diamond accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment while Bernstein accused him of verbal abuse and discrimination.
O’Reilly has repeatedly denied the accusations. He was fired from Fox News in 2017 after a New York Times report said he paid tens of millions in sexual harassment settlements over decades.
Fred Newman, an attorney representing O’Reilly, said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday that “the only reason Bill O’Reilly settled any cases was to protect his children.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.