A private investigator working for Bill O'Reilly said yesterday that Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom conveyed a settlement overture from the former Fox News producer suing O'Reilly for sexual harassment, even as Bloom spent the week commenting on the case.
"An absolute lie," Bloom said. "I was asked to get involved" -- she refused to say by whom -- "and I said I couldn't do that, as a journalist."
The conflict over Bloom's role surfaced as sources involved in the case said lawyers for O'Reilly and accuser Andrea Mackris held two rounds of talks yesterday and may be getting closer to settling the suit, which has been a major embarrassment for the most popular talk show host in cable news. The discussions involve payments to Mackris of more than $2 million.
Mackris alleged that O'Reilly subjected her to graphic phone-sex discussions while she worked for him. He has said he did nothing illegal and sued her for attempted extortion.
The questions about Bloom, first raised by the New York Daily News, follow a week in which she has generally sided with Mackris on numerous television shows. "Fox News has gone on the offensive and done everything she said they threatened her with, blasting her, destroying her credibility," Bloom said on NBC's "Today." On ABC's "Good Morning America," Bloom said that if there are tape recordings of "what he wants to do to her sexually," O'Reilly is "cooked."
Bo Dietl, a New York private eye working for O'Reilly's legal team, said Bloom acted as a go-between for Mackris's attorneys after she had interviewed him off the air earlier this week. "She grabbed me outside and says to me, 'They want to settle this thing,' " Dietl said.
Dietl said Bloom was "a little too close" to Mackris's side, adding: "If you're a correspondent you're supposed to be fair with the news."
Bloom said she "absolutely" hasn't offered Mackris or her lawyers any advice. Asked whether she has spent time cultivating them, she said, "I don't reveal my sources."
Referring to an allegation in Mackris's suit -- that O'Reilly had told her, "If any woman ever breathed a word I'll make her pay so dearly that she'll wish she'd never been born" -- Bloom said:
"They're shooting the messenger. I have been on-air taking positions that Fox is probably unhappy with. Fox News representatives have said they would destroy the credibility of anybody who does that. I was not surprised to be personally attacked."
Asked for a response, Fox News spokesman Brian Lewis said: "It's ironic that Lisa is accusing Fox of doing the same thing she's doing on a nightly basis to Bill and the network. By not disclosing her conflict of interest, Lisa is just adding to her credibility problem."
O'Reilly has acknowledged being embarrassed by the lawsuit and has canceled several television appearances that had been scheduled to promote his new children's book. "This thing has hurt him tremendously," Dietl said. Mackris "has already hurt O'Reilly regardless of what happens."