Fox has been distancing itself from a $32 million settlement of sexual harassment allegations against former Fox News Channel golden boy Bill O’Reilly since news of the settlement broke over the weekend. One of the revelations in reporting on the settlement by The New York Times was that soon after the settlement was reached, 21st Century Fox began contract negotiations with O’Reilly that resulted in a four-year extension paying $25 million a year.
21st Century Fox addressed the matter in a statement released Oct. 21, saying: “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.”
The statement adds: “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 Mr. 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.”
In the latest devlopment, James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, commented on the big payout during an appearance in New York at the Paley Center for Media International Council Summit.
Deadline quotes Murdoch saying: “It was news to me when we saw that number the other day.”
“Murdoch also noted that the settlement was paid by O’Reilly, not by the company,” Deadline adds. “He also said it is a given that some Fox employees are going to ‘behave badly at times,’ though his priority is to make sure that when the company does discover evidence of misdeeds, ‘we can react to that information. We can be decisive about it, as we were with Roger Ailes, as we were with Bill O’Reilly.’”
O’Reilly was fired by Fox News in April.