- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bill O’Reilly agreed to pay $32 million to resolve sexual harassment claims lodged by a frequent guest of his former Fox News program, The New York Times reported Saturday — an enormous, previously undisclosed settlement reached weeks before the disgraced pundit received a pay raise from the network’s parent company.

Mr. O’Reilly struck the $32 million deal with Fox News analyst Lis Wiehl in January, two people told The Times — about six months after Fox News ousted its former chairman over separate allegations of sexual harassment, and a month before 21st Century Fox upped Mr. O’Reilly’s annual salary from about $18 million to $25 million.

Mr. O’Reilly ultimately left Fox News three months after reaching the settlement with Ms. Wiehl following news reports surfacing detailing a handful of similar, previously undisclosed allegations of sexual harassment raised by several of his female colleagues.

“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,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement Saturday.

“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 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.”

Mr. O’Reilly learned on January 2 that Ms. Wiehl intended to sue him for sexual harassment, according to The New York Times report. They negotiated over the course of a few days and eventually reached an settlement, seen by The Times, promising $32 million paid out over a period of time in exchange for Ms. Wiehl’s silence, the report said.

Ms. Wiehl agreed to destroy all communications between her and Mr. O’Reilly and eventually signed an affidavit dated Jan. 17 retracting the allegations and promising not to sue, the report said.

Her draft lawsuit nixed by the agreement included “allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material,” according to the report.

Mr. O’Reilly told The New York Times that he had been receiving threatening messages during his time at Fox News and was forwarding some of the material to Ms. Wiehl since she was one of his attorneys, according to the report.

Neither Ms. Wiehl nor her attorneys agreed to comment, The New York Times reported.

The settlement involving Ms. Wiehl is the largest of at least six agreements reached between Mr. O’Reilly’s accusers with either Fox News or its former employer. The New York Times first reported the previous five settlements in April, spurring outcry that ended in Mr. O’Reilly’s ouster.

Roger Ailes, the co-founder and former chairman of Fox News, was similarly ousted from the network in July 2016 amid a flurry of sexual harassment allegations dating back decades. He died less than a year later this past at the age of 77.

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