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Fox to investigate Los Angeles radio host’s sexual harassment claims against Bill O’Reilly

Dr. Wendy Walsh details sexual harassment allegation against Bill O'Reilly (Video: Reuters)
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This story has been updated.

Fox News Channel's parent company is investigating the network's top-rated host Bill O'Reilly after a Los Angeles radio personality leveled sexual harassment accusations against him.

Wendy Walsh, host of the "Dr. Wendy Walsh Show" on Southern California airwaves, said O’Reilly pulled a job opportunity from her in 2013 after she declined to visit his hotel room — a charge the conservative pundit has vehemently denied.

21st Century Fox said it was looking into Walsh's accusation. "21st Century Fox investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters,” the company told the Post in a statement Monday.

The Paul Weiss firm previously handled the channel’s investigation into Roger Ailes, the Fox News chairman who was ousted after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him and more than two dozen women came forward with harassment claims against him.

Lisa Bloom, Walsh’s attorney, said her client isn’t seeking money — just accountability. On Twitter, she suggested the Weiss lawyers are too close to Fox:

Walsh, 54, said she dined with O'Reilly at a Los Angeles hotel four years ago and saw the meeting as a virtual job interview. She had carefully selected a black crepe dress, one that fell below her knees. She said she restricted herself to one glass of red wine — to stay relaxed but sharp.

She hoped he would become her boss. Then O'Reilly invited her to his suite, she said.

Walsh described her version of the encounter in an interview with the Washington Post as O'Reilly, the host of America’s top-rated cable news show, faced a flurry of accusations of sexual harassment from former colleagues.

Since 2002,  four women have accused O'Reilly of making unwanted advances and one has accused him of verbal abuse, according to a New York Times investigation. O’Reilly — along with his parent company, 21st Century Fox — has paid them about $13 million to not pursue the claims and keep quiet about them, the report found.

In an expensive blow to Fox, more than 50 companies yanked ads from “The O’Reilly Factor” after the sexual harassment allegations surfaced.

Walsh maintains she didn’t demand or receive money. Unlike O’Reilly’s other accusers, she didn’t work with him at Fox News, so she wasn’t bound by nondisclosure rules.

“By complaining, they’re potentially facing financial ruin,” she told the Post. “I’m free to speak. I can say whatever I want, as long as it’s the truth.”

O’Reilly did not respond to the Post’s request for comment (and Fox News pointed to 21st Century Fox's comments). On April 1, the host posted online a statement addressing the claims against him. 

“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I'm vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” O’Reilly wrote. “In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.”

"The O'Reilly Factor" is losing advertisers after it was revealed five women have collectively received $13 million in settlements after accusing Bill O'Reilly of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct. (Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)

Walsh said that at the time of the dinner in 2013 she was hoping to land a contract as a contributor to Fox News, a role that could have netted her a six-figure annual payout. To her delight, O’Reilly brought the opportunity up before she had the chance, telling her she was a natural fit for the network. Walsh had previously appeared on other Fox News shows, offering her perspective as a psychologist. She had recently taped her first segment with O’Reilly.

The conversation, Walsh recalls, flowed easily. Then she said it veered somewhere beyond professionalism.

“He told me I was a very beautiful woman,” she said, “and I thought, well, maybe he thinks that’s relevant because television is a visual medium.”

He also started sharing intimate details of his life, she said. She brushed that off, too, figuring he wanted her professional opinion. After working for years as a television reporter, Walsh pursued her doctorate in clinical psychology.

Walsh was stunned, however, when she said O’Reilly asked her: Want to go up to my suite?

She wasn’t sure how to respond, so she suggested taking the conversation to the bar, instead.

“The next line out of his mouth, was ‘You think I’m going to attack you or something?’” Walsh said.

After that, she remembers, he stopped making eye contact. He complained about the price of the club sodas. He told Walsh her black Balenciaga handbag was ugly. The promise of the contributor's contract evaporated.

The indignity still stings Walsh, herself a public figure.

“I know I’m privileged,” she said. “I can call up my friend, a celebrity attorney. The most important part of my message is: There are women out there, mothers out there, working in health care and fast food and everywhere, who aren’t as lucky and who suffer more severe and egregious harassment.”

She choked up.

“I want to tell them to be brave.”

Walsh lives in Venice Beach, Calif., and teaches psychology classes at California State University, Channel Islands. She also hosts her own Los Angeles radio show, the "Dr. Wendy Walsh Show."

Despite her financial security and stable career in Southern California, she panicked about coming forward, fearing O’Reilly could somehow hurt her reputation. "I kept calling my lawyer," she said, "and asking, 'I'm not going to lose my house, right?"

That’s a common mentality among women who experience sexual harassment. A 2016 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found only 6 to 13 percent of victims ever file a formal complaint, and less than a third share their experience with a manager.

Their primary fears, according to the authors: professional retaliation and monetary damage.

After the 2013 dinner, Walsh said she felt ashamed.

“I rethought everything,” she said. “Like: Should I have even gone to dinner? But you can't say no when the big boss invites you to dinner. That would be career suicide.”

Walsh said she began telling her story to pressure Fox News to conduct an external investigation into allegations the network’s men habitually prey on women. O'Reilly's lawyer, she said, has sent her a cease-and-desist letter.

An O'Reilly spokesperson told CNN he killed Walsh's segment because of poor ratings.