Fired Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly paid $32 million to settle a sexual harassment claim just before he signed his last contract with Fox News.
A report in the New York Times published Saturday said O’Reilly made the settlement to Lis Wiehl, a longtime contributor to his program, who alleged that O’Reilly forced her into a nonconsensual sexual relationship and sent her sexually explicit material.
The settlement – a staggering figure for a sexual harassment case – was made in January, according to the news report, just before O’Reilly signed a new four-year contract that would pay him $25 million annually to continue as host of his top-rated prime-time program “The O’Reilly Factor.”
A representative of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox acknowledged that it knew about the settlement, but was not aware of the financial terms at the time.
She accused O’Reilly of reneging on a commitment to get her a position as a paid contributor at Fox News after she rejected his advances at a 2013 dinner meeting at Hotel Bel-Air.
Walsh’s complaint had followed the disclosure in the New York Times that a total of $13 million in payouts were made by O’Reilly and Fox News to five women who asserted they were sexually harassed or verbally abused by the host over the last 16 years.
Mark Fabiani, a representative for O’Reilly, told the New York Times that 21st Century Fox was “Well aware” that Ms. Wiehl had signed a sworn affidavit “Renouncing all allegations against him.”
O’Reilly recently started TV appearances to promote his new book “Killing England,” including on his formal rival Sean Hannity’s Fox News program.
He has also given interviews to NBC’s “Today” and CNN. The revelation of the settlement is yet another obstacle in 21st Century Fox’s efforts to get past the sexual harassment scandal that has engulfed the company since former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against the division’s late founding chief executive, Roger Ailes.