‘Sorry’ from Fox un­likely


The Dallas Morning News - - METRO & STATE - Twit­ter: @jfloy­d_dmn

Amid snow­balling al­le­ga­tions of se­rial nas­ti­ness in his deal­ings with grossed-out women, ex-su­per­star Bill O’Reilly is of­fi­cially out at Fox News Chan­nel.

A few ele­ments are miss­ing, how­ever, from Wed­nes­day’s bland cor­po­rate state­ment that the net­work’s par­ent com­pany, 21st Cen­tury Fox, and O’Reilly have agreed to part ways.

For one thing, some choice ad­jec­tives to de­scribe O’Reilly’s re­ported be­hav­ior might have been in or­der. “Disgusting,” “in­tol­er­a­ble” and “porcine” come to mind, al­though the lat­ter might be an un­fair slam on in­no­cent swine.

For an­other, there’s the ques­tion of how long it took the com­pany to con­duct what it calls a “thor­ough” re­view of the al­le­ga­tions. Women have been charg­ing O’Reilly with work- BILL O'REILLY

place bul­ly­ing and sex­ual ha­rass­ment since 2002. It’s hard to be­lieve that even the most zeal­ous investigation took 15 years to carry out.

Aw, well, I’m just fun­nin’ with y’all. We all know it wasn’t the voices of the in­jured and vil­i­fied women tor­mented by O’Reilly over the years that brought this about. It was the re­cent mass ex­o­dus of ner­vous ad­ver­tis­ers from his top-rated ca­ble news show. It was the dol­lars, the simoleons, the spon­dulix that mat­tered here.

In other words, cause and ef­fect here were in­di­rect, at best.

But what­ever. In the end, the pri­mary lever was an April 1 re­port in The New York Times (main­stream jour­nal­ism, how I love thee). The story put to­gether old al­le­ga­tions and new in­for­ma­tion show­ing that O’Reilly and Fox ponied up at least $13 mil­lion over the years to pay off women who com­plained that O’Reilly groped, ha­rassed, be­lit­tled, propo­si­tioned, made lewd re­marks to, dis­cussed sex acts with, placed dirty-minded mas­tur­ba­tory phone calls to and/or threat­ened them. Since that story ran, two more women have levied sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions.

Too, too much

He will not starve. O’Reilly re­port­edly walks away from his job with a hefty $25 mil­lion sev­er­ance check, re­ports said Thurs­day.

Still, O’Reilly had a lot to lose, and the only won­der here is that he didn’t lose it sooner. A medi­ocre jour­nal­ist who be­came a megawatt tele­vi­sion star through his nightly mule­flog­ging of “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness,” details of his creepy be­hav­ior have been out there for the bet­ter part of two decades.

Metic­u­lous ac­counts that he re­peat­edly tried to ini­ti­ate phone sex with a fe­male as­so­ciate pro­ducer to whom this was not just un­wel­come but re­pul­sive made tabloid head­lines in 2004. Yuck.

O’Reilly’s em­bar­rass­ing ter­mi­na­tion, of course, comes hard on the heels of the net­work’s su­per-scan­dal in­volv­ing its pow­er­ful co-founder and former CEO Roger Ailes. He was forced out last sum­mer amid sim­i­lar al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and co­er­cion by more than a half-dozen women em­ployed by Fox.

Some see top­pling of th­ese two me­dia giants as a turn­ing point.

Wash­ing­ton Post me­dia columnist Margaret Sullivan quoted me­dia ex­ec­u­tive Vi­vian Schiller: “We found out, in all of this, that if you speak up, there will be ac­tion, and that there’s strength in num­bers.”

I hope that’s true but can’t help won­der­ing if the cel­e­bra­tory sen­ti­ment is a lit­tle pre­ma­ture. Th­ese women were pub­licly cas­ti­gated as liars and ex­tor­tion­ists, by O’Reilly him­self and by his ar­dent sup­port­ers.

In March, O’Reilly served up his own kids to ex­plain the pay­offs: “I have to put to rest any con­tro­ver­sies to spare my chil­dren,” he said. His chil­dren.

Yes, women should speak up. And yes, there is strength in num­bers.

But how many are too em­bar­rassed, too cowed by the in­flu­ence wielded by pow­er­ful men and their lawyers, too fear­ful (with good rea­son) of be­ing cheated out of ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties or even los­ing their jobs, too re­luc­tant to be gaslit as “crazy” and “head cases” if they speak up?

Lever­ag­ing power

Let’s be clear: This isn’t about fun-loving naughty-boy of­fice an­tics. It’s about men lever­ag­ing their pow­er­ful po­si­tions to try to force them­selves on un­will­ing women who feel trapped in no-win sit­u­a­tions.

And there are still plenty of women out there in all walks of life who don’t see speak­ing up as an op­tion, who are stuck be­ing heart­sick with the ug­li­ness and un­fair­ness of it all.

So, yes, I would like to have seen a fuller state­ment from the Fox Big Dogs, al­though it’s prob­a­bly not re­al­is­tic to ex­pect this.

Some­thing along the lines of: “We will never again buy some­body who is le­git­i­mately sus­pected of disgusting work­place be­hav­ior out of trou­ble, no mat­ter how lu­cra­tive that per­son is to the bot­tom line.”

Or even this: “We’re sorry. We should have been lis­ten­ing to you all along. We should have been tak­ing you se­ri­ously from Day One. “It will never hap­pen again.” That would be real progress. But we’re not there yet.



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