Despite knowing Bill O’Reilly settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with a $32 million payment in January, Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox defended its decision to sign the longtime anchor to a lucrative new contract in February, saying in a statement on Saturday the deal had “protections for the company specifically aimed at harassment.”
A bombshell New York Times report on Saturday detailed O’Reilly making the payment to Lis Wiehl, a 15-year Fox News analyst, after she’d said the cable star had harassed her and forced a “nonconsensual sexual relationship.” 21st Century Fox gave O’Reilly a fresh four-year contract — with a $7 million salary bump to $25 million a year — following the Wiehl settlement and at least five others, totaling $13 million.
In a statement sent to TheWrap, 21st Century Fox said its February contract with O’Reilly gave the company “added protections” to deal with harassment claims.
Read the full statement below:
“When the company renewed Bill O’Reilly’s contract in February, it knew that a sexual harassment lawsuit had been threatened against him by Lis Wiehl, but was informed by Mr. O’Reilly that he had settled the matter personally, on financial terms that he and Ms. Wiehl had agreed were confidential and not disclosed to the company. His new contract, which was made at a time typical for renewals of multi-year talent contracts, added protections for the company specifically aimed at harassment, including that Mr. O’Reilly could be dismissed if the company was made aware of other allegations or if additional relevant information was obtained in a company investigation. The company subsequently acted based on the terms of this contract.”
“21st Century Fox has taken concerted action to transform Fox News, including installing new leaders, overhauling management and on-air talent, expanding training, and increasing the channels through which employees can report harassment or discrimination. These changes come from the top, with Lachlan and James Murdoch personally leading the effort to promote civility and respect on the job, while maintaining the Company’s long-held commitment to a diverse, inclusive and creative workplace.”