Fox News secretly settled a sexual harassment suit against host Bill O’Reilly just weeks after company chairman Roger Ailes was ousted facing a string of sexual harassment allegations, the New York Times reports.
The Times obtained a copy of a letter written to Fox News from the lawyers of Juliet Huddy, a former Fox News morning show host, in which they alleged O’Reilly was seeking a sexual relationship with her in 2011. The letter alleges that when she turned away his advances, he tried to negatively influence her career.
Huddy agreed not to sue and not to discuss the case, and in exchange was paid a settlement “in the high six figures,” people familiar with the agreement told the Times. The letter detailing the case was mailed anonymously to the New York Times, and Huddy’s lawyer declined to discuss it with the paper.
O’Reilly’s lawyer, Fredric Newman, told the Times “There is absolutely no basis for any claim of sexual harassment against Bill O’Reilly by Juliet Huddy.”
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Fox News also said the sexual harassment allegations were not true. The letter also included details of allegations that Fox News executive Jack Abernethy attempted to sabotage her career when she declined to have a personal relationship with him.
“The letter contains substantial falsehoods, which both men have vehemently denied,” Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti said.
O’Reilly, one of the network’s most popular personalities, has been accused of sexual harassment before. A former producer on his show sued him in 2004, alleging he made unwanted sexual advances and lewd comments about her. O’Reilly settled with the woman, Andrea Mackris, for millions of dollars, people familiar with the agreement said.
Huddy’s lawyers sent the letter to Fox in August and reached a settlement in September. Weeks before, former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson went public with sexual harassment allegations against Ailes, which eventually led to his ouster as Fox chairman. Fox reached a $20 million settlement with Carlson the same week the secret settlement was reached with Huddy.