Law & the Courts

The Corner

Let’s Translate the Affidavit That Bill O’Reilly Believes ‘Repudiates’ the Allegations Against Him

Today Bill O’Reilly released the full text of an affidavit by former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl. O’Reilly claims on his website that this affidavit repudiates “all allegations” against him. It does no such thing.

Before we analyze and translate the short text of the document, keep in mind that statements like this aren’t uncommon after settlements — especially when those settlements involve prominent people or prominent institutions. Part of the “purchase price” of the settlement often includes a statement that defendants use to try to claim that the litigation was nonsense from the beginning. Plaintiffs will accept the payout and do their best to negotiate language that’s as meaningless as possible. They want the settlement amount to do the talking.

Negotiations over statements or affidavits can sometimes be more complex and contentious than negotiations over even seven-figure payouts. The wording is careful, and the statements are notable mainly for what they don’t say. So, let’s look at Wiehl’s affidavit:

Let’s translate the key statements:

1. I have known Bill O’Reilly for over 18 years. We have worked together, we have socialized, and on occasion I gave him legal advice.

Translation: I used to work with Bill O’Reilly. 

2. At the end of 2016, I hired counsel who prepared a draft complaint asserting claims against Bill O’Reilly. We have since resolved all of our issues. I would no longer make the allegations contained in the draft complaint.

Translation: I sued O’Reilly, he paid me $32 million, and I agreed to drop the suit. I “would no longer make the allegations” because every settlement agreement ever created in the entire history of the universe bars the plaintiff from ever again raising her original claims. 

3. Additionally, over the years while I was acting as Bill O’Reilly’s counsel, he forwarded to me certain explicit emails that were sent to him, and any advice sought or rendered is attorney-client privileged, confidential, and private. I have no claims against Bill O’Reilly concerning any of those emails or any of the allegations in the draft complaint.

Translation: My lawyers are very, very good. Admire their handiwork. If you read closely, all I said is that he sent me explicit emails, I can’t talk about them, and I have (note the verb tense) no claims. Of course I currently have no claims; I settled them for $32 million. 

4. Also, I have reached an accommodation with Fox News regarding the termination of my employment. I have no claims against Fox News. 

Translation: Same verb tense as the previous paragraph, y’all. I have no claims because I settled those claims. 

In other words, when O’Reilly published this affidavit, he was banking on the fact that his supporters may not be familiar with legalese or that some of them will grasp at any straw they can to rationalize their continued support for a longtime television hero. But no one should be impressed with this document. It repudiates nothing. 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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