It’s a poorly kept secret that Bill O’Reilly was not popular at Fox News. Sure, he was popular with Fox News viewers. But internally, many staffers have long loathed the bombastic host, holding their nose and putting up with him because his ratings regularly make him the top dog in cable news.
It’s not hard to understand why so many Fox News employees recoiled at O’Reilly. While there are new women who have come forward recently to accuse him of sexual harassment, O’Reilly’s behavior has long been known. The New York Times reported that the network “has been aware of complaints about inappropriate behavior by Mr. O’Reilly since at least 2002, when Mr. O’Reilly stormed into the newsroom and screamed at a young producer.”
The most well-known incident dates to 2004, when a producer named Andrea Mackris filed a lawsuit against O’Reilly alleging sexual harassment. Mackris’ lawsuit said, among other things, that O’Reilly engaged in unwanted phone sex with her while using a vibrator.
Still, the network kept him around.
Even beyond these incidents, O’Reilly often made clear his contempt for women. On his radio show in August 2006, he commented on the rape and murder of a young woman, suggesting that she shared some of the blame because of her intoxicated state and what she was wearing:
Now Moore, Jennifer Moore, 18, on her way to college. She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at two in the morning. She’s walking by herself on the West Side Highway, and she gets picked up by a thug. All right. Now she’s out of her mind, drunk.
I wrote about O’Reilly’s comments in 2009 when I worked for the site ThinkProgress, tied to the news that he was slated to speak at a fundraiser to benefit rape survivors. In return, O’Reilly sent his producer, Jesse Watters, to track me down and ambush me while I was on vacation in another state a few weeks later.
O’Reilly never contacted me in advance for comment, and Watters never identified himself as being with The O’Reilly Factor. He did, however, launch immediately into questions about why I was causing “pain and suffering” to rape survivors and their families.
Apparently, O’Reilly’s way of showing that he is a friend to women who have been victims of crimes was to send his male producer to follow a young woman who lived alone across state lines while she was on vacation. He then aired multiple segments on me, accusing me of being a “villain.” Fearing for my safety at the time, my employer took extra security precautions and encouraged me to buy pepper spray.
And of course, his treatment of women isn’t the whole story. There’s also how he has treated people of color over the years as well. (His shock that a soul food restaurant in Harlem was no different from other restaurants in New York City ― “even though it’s run by blacks” ― gives you a taste of what he thought.)
For years, Fox News deliberately looked the other way on O’Reilly. What’s amazing isn’t that O’Reilly finally lost his show, it’s that he was allowed to keep it for so long.
And despite O’Reilly’s attempt to ruin me, unlike him, I still have a job today.
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