The stories are everywhere. “Is Bill O’Reilly Plotting His Future in Digital or TV (or Both)?” “Does Bill O’Reilly still have a future on TV?” “Bill O’Reilly May Wind Up at Sinclair Broadcasting.” “Sinclair Broadcasting wants to save Bill O’Reilly’s career.” “Sinclair Broadcast CEO: ‘We Have No Interest In Hiring’ Bill O’Reilly.”
So much attention to the prospects of a proven 68-year-old fraud. And so little attention to the prospects of the women with whom O’Reilly or Fox News has signed settlements to clear away — suppress — allegations of abuse and sexual harassment.
As the New York Times reported in a groundbreaking story in April, 21st Century Fox — parent company of Fox News — reached a $1.6 million settlement with Juliet Huddy, who alleged that O’Reilly made inappropriate phone calls and once attempted to kiss her, all in pursuit of a sexual relationship in 2011. She fell in an attempt to avoid him; he didn’t help her up, according to a complaint letter cited by the New York Times. “When she rebuffed him, he tried to blunt her career prospects, the letter said,” notes the story. As the King of Cable News, O’Reilly served as a gatekeeper for up-and-coming talent. Air time on his program could launch a career.
After her troubles with O’Reilly, Huddy moved to affiliate station WNYW, a property within the Fox corporate realm, in October 2013.
In a pattern that plagues the entire industry, the employment fortunes of Huddy and her alleged harasser diverged: She left the company following her settlement; he stayed (at least until the allegations aired in the New York Times and a wave of protest forced him out in April).
Does Huddy have another job? NBC News’s Megyn Kelly asked her that very question in October. “No,” said Huddy, choking up a bit. “On that happy note . . . ”
In response to an inquiry from the Erik Wemple Blog regarding her work on this front, Huddy noted that she could say only so much about her situation. “I can tell you that I’ve been filling in recently as a guest host on Curtis Sliwa’s radio show on 77WABC,” she wrote to this blog in a Twitter DM. “But as for a permanent tv job, all very quiet on that front. I would imagine as I said before that managers may be hesitant to hire someone whose name keeps being brought up as tied to a salacious scandal.”
A similar dynamic severed legal analyst Lis Wiehl from Fox News. “After 15 years on the air as a legal analyst for Fox News, I have decided to leave Fox to devote myself to my writing and other pursuits,” Wiehl wrote in an email to fellow Fox Newsers in January. “It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with many of you during my time at Fox. I thank each and every one of you who have been so helpful to me over the years. I wish you all the best.” That email was the unfortunate consequence of a $32 million settlement that O’Reilly concluded with Wiehl, a longtime legal eagle at the network. Complaints from Wiehl included “a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her,” according to a separate New York Times story. In his defense, O’Reilly has said that over a long career in broadcasting, no one has ever filed a complaint with the human resources departments of his employers.
A Harvard Law graduate and a Fox News legal analyst starting in 2001, Wiehl was a star of televised legal chatter. The former federal prosecutor carefully picked through high-profile criminal cases — for example, the trial of the Boston marathon bomber — as well as all manner of civil and constitutional questions: All presented in simple, layman-friendly language. Then she was gone.
Since leaving Fox News, Wiehl has been busy. In June, her novel “The Separatists” was published; it is her 17th book. As far as legal punditry, she has appeared on “Headline News” and CNN. She has also done some hosting of radio programs and is at work on a true-crime book. Does she want to get back on a regular legal-analysis rotation at a news network? A lawyer for Wiehl wouldn’t comment on the matter, and an attempt to reach Wiehl directly was unsuccessful.
Rebecca Diamond, a former Fox Business Network anchor, said of Wiehl: “She loved it. She loved helping people understand the legal system. I had her on my show many times.”
Diamond herself reached a settlement with O’Reilly, based on recordings of conversations with the longtime host, according to the New York Times. Since then, she has been out of television. “I chose really not to pursue a career,” says Diamond, who left the company in 2011. “I was pregnant at the time with twins. I became a stay-at-home mom. I haven’t looked into going back into TV.”
Speaking broadly about how sexual harassment cases are processed in corporate suites, Diamond says that the system “seems to always favor the person in power, the person who’s making the money. . . . The person doesn’t admit wrongdoing, so why get rid of them?”
There are other O’Reilly accusers who’ve reached settlements over his behavior. Laurie Dhue, a former anchor at Fox News, has founded a media-training firm; Rachel Witlieb Bernstein is a producer in Los Angeles; and Andrea Mackris never returned to television after her high-profile case against O’Reilly in 2004.