Bill O’Reilly was once Fox News’ top anchor and one of the most powerful people in the media industry. However, when news broke about the way he abused that power, O’Reilly’s television career came to an abrupt end.
Since he was fired in April of this year, the New York Times has learned that 21st Century Fox actually chose to renew O’Reilly’s contract even despite being aware of the harassment allegations he had faced.
O’Reilly’s contract was renewed in February of last year, one month after he struck a $32 million agreement with Lis Wiehl, a longtime network analyst who had accused him of sexual harassment.
Wiehl’s complaints against O’Reilly included “allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her.”
Executives at 21st Century Fox knew of these allegations and the settlement, which was at least the sixth that either O’Reilly or the company had agreed to during his tenure. However, they chose to stand by him anyway and granted him a four-year contract extension that paid $25 million a year.
The Times noted that, when O’Reilly’s contract was renewed, executives “were determined to hold on to Mr. O’Reilly, whose value to the network increased after the departure of another prominent host, Megyn Kelly.”
O’Reilly’s firing came six days after Gerson Zweifach, Fox’s general counsel, informed the company that details about the massive January settlement were likely to become public along with stories of his other settlements.
Of course, it was a concern about how news of O’Reilly’s settlements would affect Fox’s image — rather than concern for the women he harassed and assaulted — that encouraged the Murdochs to fire O’Reilly with a $25 million payout.
21st Century Fox recently issued the following statement about changes being made throughout the company to supposedly improve its culture and prevent future cases of harassment.
’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.’
It’s also noted in the statement that “these changes come from the top.”
When questioned by the Times about O’Reilly’s settlement, the company said that “it would be inappropriate to comment on a pending investigation other than to reiterate that we are cooperating fully.”
O’Reilly has made several public appearances recently to promote his new book, and he’s made it clear that he doesn’t feel any remorse for the actions that led to him being fired from his job.
He recently said during an appearance on the Today show that he never sent a lewd text or email to a Fox News employee and that his conscience is clear.
He also claimed that he was brought down by a “political and financial hit job.”
In an interview with the Times, O’Reilly lamented to “horrible” things that he and his family have gone through as a result of the allegations:
‘This is horrible, it’s horrible what I went through, horrible what my family went through. This is crap, and you know it.’
Featured image via Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images.