Bill O’Reilly won’t be able to prevent the public from learning more about his #MeToo moments, according to a report on The Hill today.
A federal judge ruled against the disgraced former Fox News anchor’s motion in a defamation case to seal the records of his multiple settlements with women who have accused him of harassment.
Judge Deborah Batts said in New York yesterday that O’Reilly “has failed to present compelling countervailing factors that could overcome the presumption of public access” to the agreements, adding that the former Fox News star “has not even come close to rebutting this First Amendment presumption” that favors releasing the information.
The defamation case to which the ruling applied was brought against O’Reilly, Fox News, and parent company 21st Century Fox by three women who say that their reputations were besmirched when they were accused of lies and extortion after reporting O’Reilly’s sexual misconduct towards them.
The ruling means that the details of the right-wing icon’s settlements with Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Gomez Diamond, and Rachel Witlieb Bernstein will all now be part of the public record.
CNN reported that the agreement with former Fox News producer Andrea Mackris required her to “lie — even in legal proceedings or under oath — if any evidence becomes public, by calling evidence ‘counterfeit’ or ‘forgeries.’”
The penalties for any of the women violating their agreement were harsh. Mackris’ settlement called for her to “return all sums paid under this Agreement, forfeit any future payments due under this Agreement, disgorge to O’Reilly the value of any benefit earned or received as a result of such disclosure, and pay to O’Reilly all reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred by O’Reilly in attempting to enforce this Agreement,” as CNN quotes the contract as requiring.
Another detail that was revealed was the fact that Mackris’ attorney when negotiating the settlement switched allegiance in the middle of the discussions and went to work for O’Reilly, a breach of ethics that left the producer “virtually without legal counsel,” as her lawyers stated in their filing in the case.
Two of the plaintiffs’ settlements also state that the women were banned “from assisting or cooperating with other victims of O’Reilly’s harassment,” a tacit admission that O’Reilly harassed multiple women, which he has publicly denied, and that the women’s victimization was real.
That may prove damaging as O’Reilly and Fox try to prove that they did not defame the plaintiffs after news of his settlements became public through an investigative report in The New York Times. In the wake of the article revealing the settlements, O’Reilly labeled his accusers as liars, saying that he had “physical proof that this is bullshit.”
O’Reilly, for his part, continues to deny the harassment claims, saying that he offered settlements just to protect his children from the seamy negative publicity. Given that the women were forced to turn over any evidence they had regarding their harassment as part of their settlements, including audiotapes of late night calls filled with sexually explicit conversations, he can continue to make that claim to his heart’s content.
The question remains, with settlements reportedly as high as $32 million, why pay that much if you’re an innocent victim of false accusations? Luckily, O’Reilly is no longer the top dog at Fox News, and is spending his time and money on legal battles that he thought he’d never have to face without the contractually mandated ability to lie about what happened.