President Trump on Wednesday defended Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, a longtime friend facing a sudden exodus of advertisers following a New York Times report that he and the cable network have collectively paid $13 million over the years to settle lawsuits brought by women alleging sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct.

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” Trump told the Times during an interview at the White House. He added: “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

Actually, the president does think O'Reilly did something wrong. Here is Trump's lone criticism: “I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way.”

O'Reilly said over the weekend that he settled the lawsuits not because he was guilty — he denies wrongdoing — but to spare his children the pain of messy public ordeals.

Trump is disappointed in his pal's unwillingness to fight harder — but not in anything else.

Trump is returning a favor here. Late in the presidential campaign, when The Washington Post published a 2005 video in which Trump boasted that he could “do anything” to women and get away with it because he is a star, O'Reilly dismissively told viewers that the remarks were just “crude guy talk.”

O'Reilly also expressed skepticism when a series of women came forward in the final month of the race, claiming that Trump had touched them inappropriately.

“If the woman on the airplane was indeed sexually assaulted,” O'Reilly said during an October telecast, referring to an accusation leveled by Jessica Leeds, “by not only Donald Trump or any other man or anybody on this Earth, all she had to do is tell the flight attendant; that person would have been arrested. Okay? Donald Trump wasn't famous back then. He was just a regular guy. And nothing happened.”

Regarding other matters, O'Reilly was tough on Trump, as I wrote in September. He took the then-candidate to task for retweeting a phony statistic about black-on-white homicide, ripped Trump's plan to bar all foreign Muslims from entering the United States and told Trump that rounding up and deporting every last undocumented immigrant “could never happen.”

But O'Reilly never seemed to take Trump's accusers seriously, and now Trump is doing the same for O'Reilly.

On some level, it is nice to have the backing of the president of the United States. On another level, O'Reilly might reasonably worry that Trump's support is a kiss of death.

“I think they are unfounded,” Trump told the Washington Examiner on July 14, discussing sexual harassment allegations against Fox News's then-chairman Roger Ailes, another longtime friend.

Ailes resigned one week later.