Fox News’ Howard Kurtz called the New York Times’ report that Bill O’Reilly paid a $32 million sexual harassment settlement just before his contract was renewed in February “a significant setback for Fox.”
“It’s embarrassing, it’s disappointing that O’Reilly was given a new contract under these circumstances,” Kurtz said on his “MediaBuzz” show Sunday.
“I hope it doesn’t impede the progress that the company has been trying to make, which — in the end, the company did fire its biggest moneymakers,” he added
Kurtz also spoke with The Hollywood Reporter’s Matthew Belloni, who agreed that the Times’ report is damaging to Fox News’ attempts to recover from a series of sexual assault investigations against major figures in the network, including O’Reilly and the late founder and CEO Roger Ailes.
According to The Times, O’Reilly paid Fox News analyst Lis Wiehl in January after she threatened to sue him for a “nonconsensual sexual relationship” and that O’Reilly had sent Wiehl “sexually explicit material,” including gay pornography. In February, the network inked O’Reilly to a new four-year contract worth $25 million a year.
In response to the story, O’Reilly accused the Times of false reporting, saying on Twitter that his “investigative team has done a superb job in exposing the lies and smear. I will speak with you on Monday.”
But Kurtz and Belloni were quick to question O’Reilly’s defense.
“If these allegations are crap, why spend $32 million to settle them?” Belloni said. “It just seems like the effort was ‘look the other way’ and hopefully this will work out.”
Watch Kurtz’s remarks and his interview with Belloni in the clip above.