Claim against O’Reilly set­tled

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Stephen Battaglio stephen.battaglio @la­times.com Twit­ter: @SteveBattaglio

Fox News pays to end a claim that a for­mer net­work per­son­al­ity was sex­u­ally ha­rassed by Bill O’Reilly.

Fox News set­tled a sex­ual harass­ment com­plaint by a for­mer em­ployee in Septem­ber against Bill O’Reilly, its big­gest prime-time star, and Jack Aber­nethy, the divi­sion’s co-pres­i­dent.

For­mer Fox News per­son­al­ity Juliet Huddy claimed in a let­ter from her lawyers sent last Au­gust that her op­por­tu­ni­ties at the com­pany ended in re­tal­i­a­tion for not sub­mit­ting to sex­ual ad­vances by O’Reilly that be­gan in 2011. She also said Aber­nethy had made un­wanted ad­vances to­ward her.

No law­suit was filed against O’Reilly or Aber­nethy, who was pro­moted to his post in Au­gust af­ter the let­ter was re­ceived and was signed to a long-term con­tract fol­low­ing the set­tle­ment pay­ment made in Septem­ber. The agree­ment was first re­ported on the web­site Lawnewz.com.

The set­tle­ment shows the sex­ual harass­ment is­sue con­tin­ues to shadow Fox News even af­ter the ouster of for­mer Chair­man Roger Ailes, who was ac­cused of sex­ual harass­ment in a law­suit by for­mer an­chor Gretchen Carl­son.

The suit prompted 21st Cen­tury Fox to launch an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Ailes’ con­duct to­ward Carl­son and other women at Fox News, in­clud­ing Megyn Kelly, the pop­u­lar an­chor who re­cently an­nounced her move to NBC.

The cable news jug­ger­naut set­tled that law­suit in Septem­ber with a $20-mil­lion pay­ment to Carl­son. But other women have come for­ward with al­le­ga­tions, sug­gest­ing that sex­u­ally in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior had been rooted in the cul­ture of the com­pany.

Huddy re­ceived a six-fig­ure mone­tary set­tle­ment from the com­pany in re­turn for agree­ing not to file suit, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions but not autho­rized to com­ment. Fox News de­nied the claims against O’Reilly and Aber­nethy. “Juliet Huddy’s let­ter of in­tent to sue con­tained sub­stan­tial false­hoods which both men ve­he­mently de­nied,” a state­ment from Fox News said.

At­tor­neys for Huddy could not be reached for com­ment.

O’Reilly, 67, is the toprated per­son­al­ity in all of cable news. His 8 p.m. Eastern time pro­gram “The O’Reilly Fac­tor” is the tent pole for the net­work’s prime-time lineup. His cur­rent con­tract with Fox News ex­pires this year.

Huddy first joined Fox News in 1998. She was the co­host of a Fox syn­di­cated talk show that aired on broad­cast sta­tions in 2007 and in 2011 went on to ap­pear reg­u­larly on “The O’Reilly Fac­tor” seg­ments.

Huddy claimed that O’Reilly propo­si­tioned her on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and tried to kiss her dur­ing a visit to his home in Man­has­set, N.Y. The let­ter also de­scribes other oc­ca­sions when he al­legedly re­peat­edly attempted to get Huddy to have sex with him.

Af­ter re­buff­ing O’Reilly, Huddy said she was not asked to ap­pear on his pro­gram — which is so pop­u­lar it has served as a spring­board for other on-air tal­ent at Fox. She was even­tu­ally as­signed to a predawn news­cast on the lo­cal New York Fox TV sta­tion WNYW. She re­mained in that po­si­tion un­til last Septem­ber.

Huddy is the daugh­ter of John Huddy, a for­mer Fox News con­sul­tant and close long­time as­so­ciate to Ailes. John Huddy was among a group of Ailes’ loy­al­ists who were purged from Fox News shortly af­ter the ex­ec­u­tive’s exit.

The in­ci­dent with Huddy is not the first time that Fox News has set­tled a sex­ual harass­ment charge against O’Reilly. In Oc­to­ber 2004, O’Reilly was sued by a for­mer as­so­ciate pro­ducer, An­drea Mack­ris, who said he ini­ti­ated phone sex and reg­u­larly used lewd lan­guage with her at work and in din­ner con­ver­sa­tions. O’Reilly coun­ter­sued and called Mack­ris’ al­le­ga­tions a “shake­down.” A set­tle­ment was reached hours be­fore a sched­uled court hear­ing on ev­i­dence in the case that was said to in­clude tapes of O’Reilly’s lurid phone calls.

Andy Kropa Associated Press

BILL O’REILLY was ac­cused of ha­rass­ing the net­work’s Juliet Huddy.

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