As Bill O’Reilly is forced to drop the mike at Fox News, will powerful men stop harassing women and will other men see that it’s wrong to protect them?
Sorry to rain on the moment but it’s foolish to believe anything has changed, anymore than Bill Clinton being impeached slowed Bill Cosby or gave O’Reilly or his boss, Roger Ailes pause. Powerful men do what powerful men can get away with until they can’t.
Morality played no part. Despite the young Murdoch’s desire to drag the network into the 21st century, Fox’s decision was primarily financial. Paying out $15 million to make women go away was cost effective as long as O’Reilly was bringing in $200 million a year. When admen, concerned that female consumers might not believe they were in such good hands with Allstate, started pulling ads, suits got worried. By the time O’Reilly signed off to go on a vacation to Italy on April 11 (and what was Cardinal Dolan thinking organizing an audience with Pope Francis), two-thirds of his ads were gone and the air was clotted with pitches for My Pillow.com and promotions for other shows. The star had no luster left.
But enough about O’Reilly. What about the actual most powerful person in the world, President Donald Trump, with more accusers than the Fox anchor? Trump so identifies with O’Reilly that he was that rare person anxious to step up and defend him. From the Oval Office, he called O’Reilly a “good person” who did “nothing wrong.” His only criticism of the man was that he shouldn’t have settled.
Like The Donald. Despite tapes boasting about the kind of behavior that got Ailes and O’Reilly ousted and a phalanx of accusers coming forward saying they were molested, Trump won. I called attorney Gloria Allred to see what’s happened since the election. She represents four of about a dozen of the accusers, all of whom joined her for the Women’s March in Washington in January, including Summer Zeros who has sued Trump for defamation for calling her and the rest of his accusers “liars.” He could settle Allred says. All he is being asked to do is to take back labeling the women liars.
We know, he takes nothing back, not the birther crusade, not saying the former president is a sick, bad guy for wiretapping him, not that an armada is steaming towards North Korea when it was going in the opposite direction. To that, Allred says see you in court very soon, New York Supreme Court on May 17 to be exact. For now, the president says he doesn’t have to respond because, well, he’s president. “My answer to that is simple,” Allred said in a phone interview. “Jones v. Clinton. The Supreme Court ruled that no man is above the law. The president only has immunity for official acts and, of course, he’s being sued over personal ones.
Allred points out the irony in that the president said “he would be the one suing all the women after the election.” Allred predicts there will be no dismissal and she will be deposing the president in much the way Clinton was deposed in 1998. That ended in ended in impeachment.
It would be easy for Trump to make at least this one accuser go away but powerful men don’t say they’re sorry. In fighting back, most women are on their own. One woman is just your over-sensitive flower wilting at what our president calls “locker room” talk. Most women slough it off, hoping for a new boss, or that her tormenter gets bored, knowing they’re unlikely to prevail. Even your sisters don’t want you to rock the boat unless you can capsize it. There may be no Allred, or her daughter Lisa Bloom who represented many of O’Reilly’s accusers, waiting to take up your cause, which then brings forward other victims providing comfort in numbers. Even when accusers get the media to pay attention and lawyers to work pro bono, the institution protects it own. As in Casablanca where the police captain was on the take, according to Gabriel Sherman’s reporting in New York Magazine, Fox executive Bill Shine helped Ailes handle women who accused him of sexual harassment. Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros named Shine as a defendant in her lawsuit against Fox News and Roger Ailes saying that when she went to Shine to get help, Shine "told her that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that she ‘needed to let this one go.’” Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky also named Shine in a lawsuit against Ailes, in which she said Shine was complicit in “Ailes’ harassment and of punishing her for raising the issue.” Shine has denied claims made in these lawsuits. After Roger Ailes departed, Shine was also promoted to co-president of the network. It's no wonder that O'Reilly kept up his ways.
There will be no new day. O’Reilly walks away with $25 million thanks to a contract negotiated when his bosses knew everything.
Even a dozen women coming forward doesn’t mean that women will prevail over one powerful man. The opposite, perhaps. Look at who’s president.
CORRECTION: The piece was corrected to note that Shine has denied all claims made in lawsuits, and that he is co-president, not co-CEO.