Fresh Headache For Murdochs: Bill O'Reilly Got Raise After Secret Payout The Murdoch family decided to keep host Bill O'Reilly on the air even after pledging to clean house at Fox News over a larger sexual harassment scandal.
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Fresh Headache For Murdochs: Bill O'Reilly Got Raise After Secret Payout

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Fresh Headache For Murdochs: Bill O'Reilly Got Raise After Secret Payout


Thirty-two million dollars - that's how much money Bill O'Reilly agreed to pay to a colleague at Fox News to keep her allegations of sexual harassment a secret. That was in January, and it just came out in a report over the weekend. Fox News knew about the accusations and the settlement, and it signed O'Reilly to a big new contract anyway. NPR's David Folkenflik reports.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Former Fox News star Megyn Kelly started her hour of NBC's "Today" show focused on her former network.


MEGYN KELLY: The news about Bill O'Reilly and Fox News - have you seen it?

FOLKENFLIK: Kelly noted that O'Reilly had previously paid five other women to dispose of their accusations. This new disclosure exceeded them all.


KELLY: It is shocking, and it's upsetting to many of us. I spent this weekend on the phone nonstop talking to many women at Fox News and otherwise who are deeply disturbed over the latest New York Times report.

FOLKENFLIK: The person making the complaint was Lis Wiehl, a Harvard law graduate, university professor, author and longtime Fox News legal commentator. As The New York Times first reported this weekend, Wiehl drafted a lawsuit accusing O'Reilly of sexually harassing her, sending her gay pornography and even of a non-consensual sexual relationship, an unclear term with deeply disturbing implications. O'Reilly agreed in January to pay her $32 million. She released O'Reilly and Fox News from any legal claims.

The Murdoch family that controls Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, now concedes it knew about the settlement when it signed O'Reilly to a splashy contract in February. The parent company says it didn't know the big-dollar figure, and it says any network would have done the same given O'Reilly's ratings. The Times reported O'Reilly was ousted as earlier settlements became known. And 21st Century Fox's top lawyer said federal prosecutors would learn of the settlement as part of a larger criminal investigation. Employment lawyer Doug Wigdor represents 1 of the other 5 women.

DOUG WIGDOR: They didn't terminate him when they knew about the information. They renewed his contract. They gave him a pay raise. And they only got rid of O'Reilly once the information finally became public.

FOLKENFLIK: O'Reilly recently told New York Times reporters they were getting the story wrong.


BILL O'REILLY: This is crap, and you know it. It's politically and financially motivated. And we can prove it with shocking information.

FOLKENFLIK: So far, that information has not been made public. Indeed, the settlement ensured that all photos, text messages and other communications between O'Reilly and Wiehl would be erased. Lawyer Doug Wigdor argues that's troubling.

WIGDOR: There was the destruction of evidence.

FOLKENFLIK: Federal prosecutors are questioning witnesses about the activities of the network's former president, former top lawyer, former chief financial officer, current publicity chief and others according to two people familiar with the investigation. Megyn Kelly left Fox earlier this year. She had joined other women in accusing chairman Roger Ailes of harassment in July 2016. Rupert Murdoch and his sons have promised a cultural change for the network. This morning, Megyn Kelly argued that not enough had changed.


KELLY: This must stop - the abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation, the silencing of them after the fact. It has to stop.

FOLKENFLIK: The Murdochs are keenly sensitive to another audience thousands of miles away. British officials are giving increasingly tough scrutiny to their proposed $15 billion takeover of the European television giant Sky. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.


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