Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson has criticized the network for its decision to bring host Bill O'Reilly's talk show back on the air after he settled a $32 million lawsuit over sexual harassment.
"It's horrifying to think that any company would dismiss an employee following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and then allow him back on the air a few months later," Carlson said in a statement, after The New York Times reported Saturday that Fox gave O'Reilly a new four-year $25 million contract in February, a month after he settled the lawsuit over sexual harassment allegations.
David French, Senior Fellow at National Review Institute, also responded to O'Reilly's renewed contract. "I would call this 'stunning,' but I'm not surprised. It's shameful. And so is the moral cowardice on the right that enabled him," he wrote on Twitter.
Allegations on O'Reilly included 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, the Times reported. He was fired in April.
In a Sunday column, French added that its time for conservatives to "Weinstein" O'Reilly by banishing him from his conservative media platforms.
"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," French wrote.
Carlson had sued Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes over sexual harassment of his employees in July 2016.
O'Reilly responded to the Times report, writing on Twitter, "Yet another smear article on me," with a link to his website, where he posted what he calls "the verifiable truth."
After Ailes was fired, dozens of women accused scores of male employees of Fox News of harassment - including the current co-president of Fox News Jack Abernathy, O'Reilly's spokesman Mark Fabiani says on the website. "21st Century Fox settled almost all these cases, paying out close to $100 million dollars. Six months after Mr. Ailes left the company, Fox News Corporation signed Bill O'Reilly to a record breaking new contract after the company had analyzed and considered all allegations against him."
The Times printed "leaked information provided by anonymous sources that is out of context, false, defamatory, and obviously designed to embarrass Bill O'Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace," Fabiani adds.
Carlson, who was awarded $20 million last September as a result of her lawsuit against Ailes, tweeted Sunday, "Time for companies to stop helping the harassers & shutting up victims."
Ailes died last May at the age of 77.
A Fox spokesman sought to explain O'Reilly's renewed contract in a statement, and said the network didn't know of the settlement amount at the time, according to The Blaze.
"When the company renewed Bill O'Reilly's contract in February, it knew that a sexual harassment lawsuit had been threatened against him by Lis Wiehl, but was informed by Mr. O'Reilly that he had settled the matter personally, on financial terms that he and Ms. Wiehl had agreed were confidential and not disclosed to the company," the spokesman was quoted as saying. "His new contract, which was made at a time typical for renewals of multi-year talent contracts, added protections for the company specifically aimed at harassment, including that Mr. O'Reilly could be dismissed if the company was made aware of other allegations or if additional relevant information was obtained in a company investigation. The company subsequently acted based on the terms of this contract."