The Corner

Culture

It’s Time for Bill O’Reilly To Be Weinsteined

Over the weekend the New York Times published an extended scoop about Bill O’Reilly. It turns out that he recently settled yet another sexual harassment case, this time for a staggering $32 million. The allegations were deeply troubling. Here’s the Times:

Although the deal has not been previously made public, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly. They included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter. (Emphasis added.)

The amount was large, but the settlement wasn’t unusual. O’Reilly was a serial settler of sexual harassment claims, yet Fox gave him a lucrative new contract anyway:

It was at least the sixth agreement — and by far the largest — made by either Mr. O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against him. Despite that record, 21st Century Fox began contract negotiations with Mr. O’Reilly, and in February granted him a four-year extension that paid $25 million a year.

I have a couple of thoughts. First, while I’m very familiar with the practice of so-called “nuisance settlements” — where a company or celebrity settles frivolous claims for small amounts mainly because the cost and hassle of defending the complaint is larger than the potential liability — but no reasonable person would call O’Reilly’s gigantic payment a “nuisance settlement.” O’Reilly has contested the Times story, but actions speak louder than words. As the Times notes, publicly known settlement amounts involving O’Reilly “have totaled about $45 million.”

How many serious allegations must there be — and how much settlement money must O’Reilly pay — before conservatives apply the same standards to him that they would eagerly apply to a liberal of corresponding fame and importance? Yet prominent conservatives are guests on his new “No Spin News,” and he’s consistently a guest on other conservative programs. O’Reilly should be banished from every serious and meaningful conservative outlet just as Weinstein is being stripped of his progressive public platforms. Frankly, there is no need for O’Reilly’s voice in the public square. 

Both sides of America’s political and cultural conflict are facing their own days of reckoning. In these last few weeks, it’s becoming painfully obvious even to those who still try to cling to Hollywood’s illusions of cultural superiority that an industry famous for its moralizing is responsible for an immense amount of exploitation and victimization. At the same time, conservatives have had to face the fact that its favorite network was rife with its own abuses, and too many conservatives are in denial over Donald Trump. They’re convinced that his boasts were mere “locker room” talk and that all of the more than one dozen public accusations of misconduct were politically-motivated. 

It’s important to remember that in all these cases we’re not dealing with the ambiguity of a one-off “he-said, she-said” cases that we see so often . Rather, we’re seeing powerful men time and again facing he-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, and she-said cases involving common fact patterns and common tactics. Nor can anyone reasonably claim that serial sexual harassment allegations are simply the price of being rich and controversial. The Left hates Mike Pence almost as much as it does Donald Trump (and certainly more than it does Bill O’Reilly) yet the worst it can do to Pence is make fun of him for being too careful. 

None of this should be hard. There are too many allegations settled for too much money for O’Reilly to receive the benefit of the doubt. It’s time for O’Reilly to be Weinsteined. 

 

 

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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