O’Reilly and the pow­er­ful men ac­cused of prey­ing on women in the work­place

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - NATION+WORLD - By Pe­tula Dvo­rak Cour­tesy of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Wealth and power have al­lowed men to get away with sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse for ages, that’s not new.

From Bill Cosby to Bill Clin­ton, from Do­minique StraussKahn to Don­ald Trump, high­pro­file men have been ac­cused of prey­ing on women in very ugly ways. And many of them duck al­le­ga­tions and le­gal con­se­quences for years or even decades — right up un­til the grat­i­fy­ing day that their victims fi­nally take them down.

Which brings us to the well-de­served down­fall of Bill O’Reilly, the com­bat­ive Fox News host who joined his heinous pal, former Fox chair­man Roger Ailes, in the un­em­ploy­ment line this week.

Th­ese two men are ac­cused of us­ing their po­si­tions to sex­u­ally ha­rass and abuse the women in their work­place over and over again.

For years, women who worked with O’Reilly — the co-au­thor of a book on “Old School” val­ues — said the talk­ing head ver­bally abused them, called them up at home and de­scribed lurid (and ridicu­lous) sex acts he wanted to per­form on them. He al­legedly told his as­so­ciate pro­ducer that he was mas­tur­bat­ing while talk­ing with her and of­fered others pro­mo­tions in ex­change for sex with him.

This is a guy who was recorded telling that as­so­ciate pro­ducer that he wanted to fon­dle her with a falafel, though he ac­tu­ally meant a loofah. Yet some­how that wasn’t em­bar­rass­ing enough to get him off the air.

Nor were the court records that had his teenage daugh­ter de­scrib­ing the way he was “chok­ing her mom” as he “dragged her down some stairs” by the neck. Nah, keep that guy on the air and let him pro­mote his books on fam­ily val­ues.

Let’s put aside the ethics and moral­ity of those ac­cu­sa­tions to just look at the cor­po­rate cost of such ac­cu­sa­tions — the law­suits filed, the hours in ne­go­ti­a­tions with lawyers, the $15 mil­lion in set­tle­ments. And still nope. Those things weren’t enough to make Fox News say adios to a guy who gets mil­lions of view­ers by spend­ing all his time rip­ping into others from the com­fort of a TV stu­dio.

No, the Fox over­lords didn’t con­sider ditch­ing O’Reilly un­til the New York Times pub­lished a stun­ning story ear­lier this month about sex­ual ha­rass­ment set­tle­ments with five women who worked at Fox over a 15-year pe­riod. That’s when ad­ver­tis­ers be­gan to flee and when the ca­ble news chan­nel fi­nally be­gan to take the al­le­ga­tions against their toprated host se­ri­ously.

It was all about the Ben­jamins, baby. Not the be­hav­ior women said he was guilty of.

But it is a re­minder of the awe­some power of con­sumers with the com­pa­nies who want to sell us stuff. The al­le­ga­tions against O’Reilly prompted a stam­pede of nearly two dozen big ad­ver­tis­ers to run away from Fox.

Hooray BMW and MercedesBenz. Smart move Con­stant Con­tact. And yes, it was ex­tra sharp for the men’s shirt com­pany called Un­tuckit to high­tail it away from a man who al­legedly called women at night and de­scribed him­self un­tuck­ing some­thing.

I know, it’s all pretty disgusting.

But there is a funny part to this.

Af­ter Fox an­nounced they were oust­ing him on Thurs­day, O’Reilly — who fa­mously calls any­one op­pos­ing his con­ser­va­tive ideas “snowflakes” — con­tin­ued to whine about his fate and deny the avalanche of al­le­ga­tions against him.

“It is tremen­dously dis­heart­en­ing that we part ways due to completely un­founded claims,” he said in a state­ment af­ter Fox an­nounced his ax­ing. “But that is the un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity many of us in the pub­lic eye must live with today.”

He said his ac­cusers — all of them suc­cess­ful, pro­fes­sional women — tar­geted him be­cause he’s fa­mous. That’s a fa­mil­iar de­fense from men like him, who are ac­cus­tomed to say­ing and do­ing any­thing they want to the women around them.

Our pres­i­dent once bragged on an “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape about kiss­ing and grop­ing women when­ever he was at­tracted to them.

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump ex­plained to Billy Bush in 2005. “You can do any­thing.”

“What­ever you want,” Bush agreed.

“Grab them by the p---y,” Trump said. “You can do any­thing.”

Most men, of course, would never talk this way. They treat their fe­male col­leagues with re­spect. But it is how some men in po­si­tions of power think. And in the 21st cen­tury Amer­i­can work­place, those men must be rooted out and fired.

The women who al­leged they were be­ing ha­rassed by Bill O’Reilly should have been taken se­ri­ously right away. They should not have had to wait un­til ad­ver­tis­ers spoke up.

But the money folks are lis­ten­ing. Re­mem­ber that. It’s a start, and that power is in our hands.

RICHARD DREW — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Host Bill O’Reilly of “The O’Reilly Fac­tor” on the Fox News Chan­nel, poses for photos on the set in New York.

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