Choking, Harassing, and Loofahs: Women’s Allegations Against Bill O’Reilly Piled Up for Years Before His Demise
A confluence of advertiser boycotts and newly unearthed sexual-harassment cases brought him down—but his troubling alleged behavior towards women has gone on for decades.
Bill O’Reilly is done at Fox News.
The reign of the most-watched host on the right-wing cable news network is coming to an end after two full decades, brought down by a perfect storm of newly unearthed sexual-harassment accusations, a massive advertiser boycott, and the absence of Roger Ailes, a fellow serial harasser of women, to protect him.
21st Century Fox confirmed the end of O’Reilly’s tenure in a Wednesday statement: “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”
Even though this latest spate of accusations were what led to his on-air demise, O’Reilly has had a long, troubling history with women in both the workplace and at home.
In October 2004, the O’Reilly Factor star was hit with possibly the greatest lawsuit in the history of cable news: then-associate producer Andrea Mackris accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment, quoting the famed gasbag verbatim from phone calls she surreptitiously recorded.
According to the suit, the at-times “tyrannical and menacing” O’Reilly would masturbate while on the phone with Mackris, at other points suggesting she purchase a vibrator; engage in phone sex or a threesome with him; and listen to lurid details of his alleged sexual encounters with a cabana masseuse, airline stewardesses, and Thai sex-show workers.
Perhaps most famously, O’Reilly fantasized to Mackris how he’d like to shower with her and fondle her with a loofah, which he mistakenly called a “falafel thing” later in the call, according to a transcript.
Mackris also alleged that the then-married O’Reilly threatened to make any woman who complains about his behavior “pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born.” Two weeks later, he settled the case with a payout around $9 million.
Two years earlier O’Reilly settled with a junior producer named Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, according to the New York Times. Bernstein accused him not of sexual harassment but of belligerent, bullying behavior, including storming into the newsroom to scream at her.
At home, O’Reilly’s temper was no less a problem.
According to court documents from his vicious custody battle with ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy, O’Reilly may have engaged in domestic violence. As Gawker reported at the time, the ex-couple’s teenage daughter told a court-appointed forensic examiner that she witnessed O’Reilly “choking her mom” as he “‘dragged her down some stairs’ by the neck.” O’Reilly had told his daughter that her mother was an “adulterer,” according to court transcripts, and that he struggled to stop himself from “going ballistic” around his family.
Meanwhile, the sexual-harassment allegations from co-workers continued to pour in. As the Times unearthed last month, former Fox Business Network anchor Rebecca Gomez Diamond had also secretly recorded phone calls in which O’Reilly made unwanted advances on her.
When Fox News decided not to renew her contract in 2011, Diamond and her lawyers outlined their case against O’Reilly and he reportedly paid out an undisclosed amount to settle it.
In 2016, after Fox News chief Ailes was ousted for his own alleged sexual-harassment of women, former anchor Laurie Dhue outline sexual-harassment complaints against both O’Reilly and Ailes. Dhue walked away with a reported settlement from 21st Century Fox worth more than $1 million.
Around the same time, former regular Factor guest Juliet Huddy received a $1.6-million settlement, over complaints that O’Reilly had pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011 while in control of her airtime, according to the Times. Her lawyers told Fox News that at one point the O’Reilly tried to kiss her, and when she pulled away and fell to the ground, he refused to assist her. He then allegedly worked to “blunt her career prospects,” the Times added.
Another former regular guest, Wendy Walsh, recently accused O’Reilly of propositioning her in 2013 to come up to his Los Angeles hotel suite after a dinner in which he promised to help her obtain a contributor deal with Fox News.
After Walsh said she rebuffed his advances, O’Reilly allegedly became irate, threatening her career, and even insulting her black leather purse. Though she continued to appear on the show for several more months, Walsh recalled feeling her Fox News career prospects slipping away. She never became a Fox News contributor.
On Monday, another accuser, represented by lawyer Lisa Bloom claimed O’Reilly called her “hot chocolate” (she is black) and would grunt and leer at her in the workplace.
Additionally, former Fox News commentator Andrea Tantaros, who is in the middle of a legal battle with the network over alleged Ailes harassment, claimed in her lawsuit that O’Reilly had made unwanted advances on her, including inviting her out to his Long Island home where he said it would be “very private.”
The conservative pundit’s therapist backed the claims, recalling “a number of occasions when Andrea complained to me about recurring unwanted advances from Bill O’Reilly.”
O’Reilly has vociferously denied all of the accusations made against him, with his lawyer often issuing overwrought statements about how the volcanic host “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”
But with Ailes gone and the younger sons of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch asserting greater control of the company, O’Reilly has no one left to protect him.
Bill-O can rest easy, however, knowing he has one defender: President Donald Trump, who said, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”