The program featured the riveting testimony of one of O’Reilly’s heretofore anonymous accusers, Perquita Burgess, who spent several weeks as a clerical temp worker at a desk near The O’Reilly Factor’s offices in 2008 and, according to her account on ABC’s daytime television show, endured relentless sexual and racial harassment from Fox News’s top-rated anchor.
Burgess, a black woman, is the person that an allegedly leering, grunting, groaning O’Reilly addressed as “Hot Chocolate,” according to her narrative.
Burgess—who on Monday formally reported O’Reilly’s alleged misconduct by calling the 21st Century Fox sexual harassment hotline and appeared on The View with her attorney, Lisa Bloom—told the hushed studio audience that at first “everything was fine.”
But, she continued, “within the first week and a half of me working there, he walked past my desk and he made a grunt noise—like that,” Burgess said, clearing her throat. “When he made the noise, I thought maybe it was a muscle spasm.”
“Acid reflux,” panelist Joy Behar chimed in, drawing a laugh.“As time went on,” Burgess continued, “I noticed every time he walked past my desk, if no one was around, he would make that noise. He wasn’t speaking to me…It was embarrassing. So I got to the point where I didn’t look at him…
“Fast forward—maybe after three weeks—we were on the elevator, coming up to our floor. He let me off first, as gentlemen usually do with a woman, and I walked in front him.”
At which point O’Reilly, walking behind her and apparently looking her up and down, exclaimed: “Looking good there, girl!”
“The hairs rose on the black of my neck because I knew the grunts and groaning was going on…as I’m walking in front of him.”
She added that O’Reilly always made a point of walking by her desk, even though it was not on the way to his office, so that he could “leer at me, look me up and down, I would feel like he was looking at my cleavage. He was making me uncomfortable. He had no reason to be at my desk at all. I just stopped looking at him or paying him any attention, because he was making me uncomfortable. It was like street harassment at the office.”
Burgess—who was amazingly composed, compelling and credible for what had to be a stressful appearance on live network television—recounted another incident that occurred later when she was sitting in the sidewalk plaza at Fox News’s Manhattan headquarters building after lunch, “minding my business,” and O’Reilly walked past her.
“Hey, Hot Chocolate!” the then-60-year-old star anchor allegedly called out.
“He walks past and doesn’t look at me,” Burgess recalled. “When he said it, I didn’t respond. I was mortified because it not only was sexual, I took that as a very plantational remark. I’ve been around enough racism. Such a blatant person, with such a high profile, making me feel uncomfortable, but then not even acknowledging me as a human being.”
Under questioning from View regular Jedidiah Bila—a former Fox News contributor who was among the misguided coterie who initially defended Roger Ailes last July after Gretchen Carlson filed her sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit—Burgess said she didn’t report O’Reilly’s behavior, either to Fox News or her temp agency, because she needed the job and didn’t want to undermine her agency’s relationship with the right-leaning cable outlet.
However, attorney Sunny Hostin, another View regular, pointed out that Burgess had obliquely referred to O’Reilly’s behavior at the time it occurred on her Twitter feed: “Bill O’Reilly likes black women. Leave it at that,” she had tweeted. “Bill O’Reilly is a piece of xxxx,” she wrote in another Twitter post.
And Burgess stressed that she also told friends and family about her unwelcome encounters with the Fox News star.
“It was so important to us that Perquita come out and speak out…and she had this wonderful Twitter history,” said her attorney, Bloom, who was seated in the audience.
Bloom, who also represents two other O’Reilly accusers, including LA radio personality Wendy Walsh, pointed that that “Perquita, like the other two accusers I represent, has not asked for a dime. And that was an important part of our legal strategy to bring him down.”Burgess, meanwhile, said she felt “triumphant” about O’Reilly’s sacking—prompting applause. “Very cathartic. Very cathartic,” she added.
Responding to President Trump’s full-throated defense of O’Reilly, and Trump’s claim that his old friend did nothing wrong, Burgess said she was dismayed that “the leader of our country [would] defend indefensible behavior by someone, Bill O’Reilly, who should be a leader at Fox. He should not use his power to intimidate women.”
In the “Hot Topics” segment before Burgess joined the table, Whoopi Goldberg recalled the incident in October 2010 when O’Reilly was a guest on The View, and she and Behar walked off the set as he kept attacking Muslims in general in stating his opposition to building a mosque near the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers.
“It took us five minutes. It took Fox 20 years,” Goldberg said.