During last month’s premiere of “Megyn Kelly Today,” the former Fox News anchor’s NBC morning show, Kelly avoided any mention of her past employer. But on Monday morning, Kelly shared some new details about her time at the cable channel, calling out Bill O’Reilly, Fox News and the network’s head of public relations for their treatment of employees who alleged sexual harassment at the company. Here’s the entire transcript of her remarks:
We begin today on a serious note, the news about Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. Have you seen it? It is shocking and it’s upsetting to many of us. I spent this weekend on the phone nonstop, talking to many women at Fox News and otherwise, who are deeply disturbed over the latest New York Times report.
On Saturday, the Times revealed yet another settlement, paid to dispose of a sexual harassment case against O’Reilly. Not a huge shock there, we already knew of five, thanks to a Times report in April. But this latest one was for $32 million. Reportedly paid directly by O’Reilly to Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl, right before Fox News renewed his contract.
Thirty-two million dollars. That is not a nuisance value settlement, that is a jaw-dropping figure. O.J. Simpson was ordered to pay the Goldman and Brown families $33.5 million for the murders of Ron and Nicole. What on earth would justify that amount? What awfulness went on? Wiehl reportedly alleging that she was subjected to nonconsensual sex by O’Reilly, which he denies. Watch.
(A video recaps O’Reilly’s exit this year after the New York Times revealed that he settled sexual harassment allegations with six women for a total of $42 million; O’Reilly denying all accusations and saying his departure was for business reasons; and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers saying that Roger Ailes, who was forced out in summer 2016 after his own sexual harassment scandal, told her that there was nothing he could do about O’Reilly’s behavior because he makes so much money for the network.)
In response to the New York Times, 21st Century Fox says that it has taken concerted action to transform Fox News, including hiring new leadership. O’Reilly calls the Times reports a malicious smear, claiming that no woman in 20 years ever complained to human resources or legal about him.
Maybe that is true. Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report, in my experience. However, O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false — I know because I complained. It was November of 2016, the day my memoir was released. In it, I included a chapter on Ailes and the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News — something the Murdochs knew I was doing and, to their credit, approved.
O’Reilly happened to be on CBS News that morning. They asked him about my book and about Ailes, who by this time had been forced out in disgrace. O’Reilly’s response:
(Plays video clip of O’Reilly’s response:
O’Reilly: “I’m not that interested in this.”
CBS News anchor: “In sexual harassment? You’re not interested in sexual harassment?”
O’Reilly: “I’m not interested in basically litigating something that is finished, that makes my network look bad. Okay? I’m not interested in making my network look bad. At all. That doesn’t interest me one bit.”)
I did something that day I’ve never done before. I wrote an email to the co-presidents of Fox News, Bill Shine and Jack Abernathy — an email I have never made public but am sharing now because I think it speaks volumes about powerful men and the roadblocks one can face in taking them on.
I wrote, in part, “Perhaps he didn’t realize the kind of message his criticism sends to young women across this country, about how men continue to view the issue of speaking out about sexual harassment. Perhaps he didn’t realize that his exact attitude of shaming women into shutting the hell up about harassment on grounds that it will disgrace the company is part of how Fox News got into the decade-long Ailes mess to begin with.
Perhaps it’s his own history of harassment of women, which has, as you both know, resulted in payouts to more than one woman, including recently. That blinded him to the folly of saying anything other than ‘I am just so sorry for the women of this company, who never should have had to go through that.’ ”
Bill Shine called me in response to my email, promising to deal with O’Reilly. By 8 p.m. that night, O’Reilly had apparently been dealt with. And by that, I mean he was permitted, with management’s advance notice and blessing, to go on the air and attack the company’s harassment victims yet again.
(Plays clip of O’Reilly:
O’Reilly: “If somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance. You don’t like what’s happening in a workplace? Go to human resources or leave. I’ve done that. And then take the action you need to take afterward if you feel aggrieved. There are labor lawyers in this country. But don’t run down the concern that supports you by trying to undermine it.”)
This is not unique to Fox News. Women everywhere are used to being dismissed, ignored or attacked when raising complaints about men in authority positions. They stay silent so often out of fear. Fear of ending their careers. Fear of lawyers, yes. And often fear of public shaming, including through the media.
At Fox News, the media relations chief Irena Briganti is known for her vindictiveness. To this day, she pushes negative articles on certain Ailes accusers, like the one you are looking at right now. It gives me no pleasure to report such news about my former employer, which has absolutely made some reforms since all of this went down. But this must stop. The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening and the retaliation, silencing of them after the fact, it has to stop.
Up next, Juliet Huddy, who was on air at Fox News for 20 years — speaking out for the first time since she accused Bill O’Reilly of sexually harassing her.