21st Century Fox was back on the defensive Saturday after the New York Times revealed a new sexual harassment settlement involving former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly that was set just a month before the company signed O’Reilly to a lucrative new contract.
O’Reilly was fired by Fox News in April following the Times’ report that he had been involved in settlements of harassment and sexual harassment claims with five women totaling $13 million, dating back to 2002. On Saturday, the Times reported that O’Reilly personally reached a settlement in January with former Fox News legal analyst, Lis Wiehl, for $32 million, a fee far larger than previously disclosed settlements. In February, Fox News set a long-term contract with O’Reilly that included a huge salary boost.
In a lengthy statement, Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox defended the decision despite the company’s awareness of O’Reilly’s personal settlement with Wiehl. Fox emphasized that the new contract gave the company an out if further harassment claims were made against its star anchor. Two months after the contract was inked, O’Reilly was fired amid the firestorm over the Times’ initial report of the five settlements and the company’s investigation of additional allegations.