The highly conservative Bill O’Reilly was once one of America’s most popular political commentators. But his career took a major hit in 2017 over a sexual harassment scandal involving six different women. Here’s a look at how the controversial figure dealt with the aftermath.
Born in Manhattan in 1949, Bill O’Reilly studied history at Poughkeepsie’s Marist College. He then moved to Miami for two years to teach both English and history to high school students. Later, he studied another degree in broadcast journalism, this time at Boston University. While there, O’Reilly began reporting for numerous local newspapers and interned at WBZ-TV. He subsequently landed a TV gig as an anchorman for Pennsylvania’s WNEP-TV.
O’Reilly received local Emmys for his stints at Denver’s KMGH-TV and New York’s WCBS-TV. His career reached new heights in 1982 when he became a CBS correspondent. O’Reilly covered the wars in the Falkland Islands and El Salvador before quitting in acrimonious circumstances. He then moved to ABC News. There, he worked on Nightline, Good Morning America and World News Tonight.
O’Reilly went on to cover numerous historical events during a six-year stint anchoring on Inside Edition. In 1996 he landed his very own show, The O’Reilly Factor, on Fox News. He soon achieved the highest ratings across the 24-hour cable news networks. However, the show started being accused of misleading its audience with distorted facts.
Indeed, George Clooney criticized O’Reilly for claiming money raised for 9/11 relief efforts hadn’t been distributed properly. In 2005 he called George Tiller, a physician specializing in late-term abortions, a baby killer. An anti-abortion activist later killed Tiller. O’Reilly also wrongly claimed to have been outside the home of George de Mohrenschildt’s daughter at the moment the professor fatally shot himself.
Despite his reputation, O’Reilly argues he isn’t a conservative. He claims in his book, The O’Reilly Factor, that he doesn’t adhere to any particular political ideology. He says that readers “might be wondering whether I’m conservative, liberal, libertarian, or exactly what… See, I don’t want to fit any of those labels, because I believe that the truth doesn’t have labels… That’s my political position.”
But it wasn’t just in front of the cameras where O’Reilly courted controversy. In 2004 he filed a $60m lawsuit against his one-time producer Andrea Mackris on the grounds of extortion. Mackris then sued the star for the same amount over sexual harassment allegations that same day. The pair eventually dropped their claims and settled out of court.
Over a decade later O’Reilly found himself at the center of another sexual harassment scandal. In 2016 Fox News paid ex-host Juliet Huddy $1.6 million. The payment followed allegations that O’Reilly said he’d have her dismissed when she repeatedly rejected his advances. Later that same year another ex-colleague, Andrea Tantaros, sued Fox News, claiming O’Reilly had made lewd remarks to her.
In 2017 The New York Times revealed that Fox News and O’Reilly had been the subject of five different sexual harassment lawsuits. Alongside Huddy and Tantaros, other claims came from Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, a junior producer, and Fox hosts Laurie Dhue and Rebecca Diamond. An estimated $13 million was spent on settling the five cases.
Wendy Walsh, a guest on The O’Reilly Factor, also made allegations against O’Reilly. She claimed to have lost out on a Fox News job after turning down an invitation to join him in his hotel suite. Nearly 60 different companies subsequently pulled their TV advertising slots. Amidst calls for his dismissal, O’Reilly announced he would be taking a two-week break. However, Fox News had other ideas and made his break permanent.
But the drama didn’t end there. In October 2017 a New York Times published an article detailing fresh claims. It said that Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl had sued O’Reilly for a “non-consensual sexual relationship” nine months previously. Wiehl reportedly received $32 million as a result. O’Reilly insists that he was innocent. Both his literary and talent agency dropped him shortly after.
O’Reilly’s children had also been at the center of another scandal concerning their father. In 2015 daughter Madeline told a custody trial that she’d once witnessed him choking her mother Maureen. O’Reilly dismissed the allegations as “100 percent false.” But he later lost his attempt to win custody of both Madeline and his son Spencer.
Following his dismissal from Fox News, O’Reilly said he wished he’d fought back against those accusing him of sexual harassment. But he wasted little time in making his voice heard once more. The same month Fox News ousted him, O’Reilly launched the No Spin News podcast. And just weeks later he became a regular guest on the Glenn Beck Radio Program.
O’Reilly even embarked on a public speaking trek titled The Spin Stops Here alongside Dennis Miller in June 2017. And in September that same year he briefly returned to Fox News. Another controversial news TV figure, Sean Hannity, interviewed the disgraced host. Several of the network’s employees heavily criticized the move.
Former TV host O’Reilly came out fighting in the interview, attacking various liberal media watchdog organizations. CNN claimed that the star felt a kinship with Hannity. It argued both men believe they have “become victims of liberals looking to silence them.” And O’Reilly continued to go on the warpath in 2018.
In October 2018 O’Reilly claimed Democrats wanted kids in the migrant caravan heading to America to get hurt. He tweeted, “It’s no accident that this mass march [to the U.S. border] is occurring right before the midterms. The unspoken hope on the lunatic left is that some migrants, especially children, will be harmed by authorities under the order of President Trump.”
Then in November 2018 O’Reilly took aim at his former network, Fox News. He told Boston Herald Radio, “They want to get on the side of establishment media. They don’t want to be attacked anymore by the New York Times, the Washington Post or by CNN. They want to be part of the club.”
However, O’Reilly was forced to back down at least once in 2018. In November he decided to drop a defamation lawsuit worth $5 million against Michael J. Panter. The star announced plans to sue Panter in 2017 after the New Jersey lawmaker accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment against his ex-girlfriend.
But O’Reilly dropped the lawsuit after Panter appointed renowned civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom. And the lawyer didn’t hold back in an official statement responding to the news. She said, “In my opinion, Bill O’Reilly is a bully who attempted to use the legal system to generate publicity for himself and to scare a good and decent man into retracting his support for O’Reilly’s accusers.”
Despite all the constant controversy, one network allegedly still believes O’Reilly is a valuable asset. According to Page Six, Newsmax TV wants to sign him for a show which would air in his previous 8 p.m slot. If the deal goes through, O’Reilly would go face-to-face with the man who replaced him, Tucker Carlson.