NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said Saturday that he is “vulnerable to lawsuits” because of his high-profile job, in response to a New York Times report detailing payouts made to settle accusations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.
O’Reilly posted the statement to his website after the Times report Saturday, and Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox backed him in a statement.
The newspaper reported that O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox have paid $13 million to five women since 2002 over these complaints “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him.”
The story said more than 60 people were interviewed, including current and former employees of Fox News or its parent company and people who know the women behind the complaints or are close to O’Reilly. Most demanded anonymity.
21st Century Fox, which is still dealing with the legal fallout from sexual harassment charges against former Fox News head Roger Ailes, did not reply to questions about the O’Reilly payouts or whether any disciplinary action was taken against O’Reilly. But the company released statement about the claims.
“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” the statement read, according to the New York Times. “Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly.
“While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility.”
O’Reilly’s statement did not deny the payments.
“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” it said. Requests for comments sent to a lawyer and a spokesman for O’Reilly were not immediately answered.
Ailes left last summer amid sexual harassment charges, which he has denied. Fox also reportedly fired an executive, Francisco Cortes, after a sexual assault complaint and paid his accuser more than $2.5 million in a settlement.
O’Reilly had been criticized earlier this week because of a comment he made about California Rep. Maxine Waters’ hair. He apologized Tuesday.
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