Fox News parent company has stood by anchor Bill O’Reilly in the wake of sexual harassment claims, and has agreed a settlement together with the anchor against the five complainants, according to reports.
The New York Times reports that O’Reilly himself or his employer 21st Century Fox, the Rupert Murdoch-owned media company which owns Fox News, have made payments amounting to roughly $13m to settle complaints made from five women working at the channel.
According to a source cited by the Wall Street Journal, O’Reilly paid $10m of the settlement, while 21st Century Fox paid the remaining $3m. 21st Century Fox did not return a comment request by time of publication.
In a statement on his personal website, O’Reilly said he has “put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”
The anchor, who hosts ‘The O’Reilly Factor’, has denied the merits of claims that he had sexually harassed employees. The complaints date back to 1996, the first year Fox News was broadcast.
In a statement to the Journal, 21st Century Fox said it takes these matters of workplace behavior “very seriously”, and that O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as “his personal responsibility”.
“Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News,” the media owner said in a statement.
However, 21st Century Fox reiterated O’Reilly’s defense that no current or former Fox News employee used the company’s hotline to raise a concern about the on-screen host, anonymously or otherwise.
“Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly,” the company said.
In the statement on his website, O’Reilly said: “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.”
O’Reilly’s contract with Fox News was due to expire at the end of this year, but it was recently renewed, the Journal reports.
Fox News has been marred by controversy in recent years, after its former chairman and chief executive Roger Ailes resigned last July amid complaints of sexual harassment. Ailes settled a suit filed by on-air host Gretchen Carlson, who alleged she had been harassed by him, for $20m.
The company also recently reached a $2.5m settlement with on-air contributor Tamara Holder, who alleged she had been sexually assaulted by senior executive Francisco Cortes. Cortes, who denies the claims, was terminated after she made the complaint.