Bill O’Reilly thinks he’s the real victim.
“This is horrible, it’s horrible what I went through, horrible what my family went through,” the disgraced Fox News star told The New York Times in an interview last Wednesday.
The newspaper was preparing to publish an investigation revealing the details of yet another settlement—this one for $32 million—O’Reilly paid out to silence sexual harassment claims by a former colleague. “This is crap, and you know it,” he said.
The attempt to deflect criticism is standard fare for the former king of cable news, who has embarked on a months-long image rehabilitation tour just as workplace harassment and sexual assault have returned to the media spotlight. The Times’ latest piece, published Sunday, comes just weeks after it reported wide-ranging allegations of abuse by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. But unlike Weinstein, who copped to some of his behavior in a surreal statement of quasi-contrition, O’Reilly has only continued counterpunching in a furious and erratic PR tour that culminated in a bizarre series of events on Monday.
On Monday morning, the Times’ podcast, The Daily, published audio clips from its interview with O’Reilly last week.
In it, O’Reilly denied the allegations, which were shared by “two people familiar” with the settlement. Among them: repeated harassment, a “nonconsensual sexual relationship,” and sending porn and other explicit material to a colleague. But he declined to go into any specifics, saying, “I don’t want to make this boring. Leaks are not facts. Leaks are designed to hurt people, and surely you know that.”
It’s been a horrendous experience. I’ve been in the broadcast business—the journalism business—for 43 years. I’ve never had one complaint filed against me by a coworker in any human resources department in 43 years. That encompasses 12 different companies. All of the sudden, all of this stuff happens, and the pain it brings to my children is indescribable. Indescribable.
O’Reilly later brought up former Fox News host Eric Bolling, who was ousted from the network after his own sexual harassment allegations, tying his son’s suicide to the scandal:
I urge you to think about what you put in your newspaper. Eric Bolling’s son is dead. He’s dead because of allegations made — in my opinion and I know this to be true — against Mr. Bolling.
After Times reporters Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt packed up their audio equipment, O’Reilly continued in an icier tone, apparently unaware that their phones were still recording his remarks:
We have physical proof that this is bullshit. Bullshit. Ok? It’s on you, if you want to destroy my children further, because it’s all crap. Why don’t you be human beings for once?....It’s politically and financially motivated, and we can prove it with shocking information. But I’m not going to sit there in a court room for a year and a half and let my kids get beaten up every day of their lives by a tabloid press that would sit there. And you know it.
Hours after the audio was released, O’Reilly’s former colleague at Fox News, Megyn Kelly, addressed his claims on Megyn Kelly Today. In calling O’Reilly a liar, Kelly produced some of the most compelling work on her NBC morning program to date:
O’Reilly returned fire almost instantly. A representative began sharing with journalists thank-you notes from Kelly to O’Reilly that she had written him in years past. O’Reilly also appeared on the radio show of another Fox News host, Glenn Beck, describing a supposed New York Times vendetta and adding, “I’m not going to run and hide, because I didn’t do anything wrong.” He continued:
No. 1, [Kelly] didn’t file a complaint—not that I know of....I don’t believe that’s true at all. No. 2, what she does not say is that there’s an anonymous hotline, and there had been for years at Fox News, where anybody can call up and say so-and-so is doing something to me, and you better stop it. That’s anonymous.
At O’Reilly’s request, Beck then read aloud Kelly’s thank-you notes—one for attending a baby shower and another for writing a blurb for her husband’s book. O’Reilly sprinkled in his own commentary:
A picture should start to emerge for any fair-minded person. All I can hope for is that the American people will see that this is an attack on an American citizen—me—for political purposes. And it’s done enormous damage to me and my family. It is horror and it should never happen in our country.
O’Reilly then criticized those who’ve leaked details of his financial settlements with alleged harassment victims. “If I had to do it all over again, I never would have settled,” he ranted. He concluded with a parting pot-shot against his former coworker:
“I don’t know why Megyn Kelly is doing what she’s doing....It is incomprehensible.”
Is it though?
Update, 3:20 p.m.: O’Reilly reiterated his defense in a series of tweets Monday afternoon.