Megyn Kelly revealed Monday that she complained about Bill O’Reilly’s behavior to Fox News executives in 2016, criticizing the way the network handled harassment allegations against both O’Reilly and the network’s former CEO Roger Ailes.
The revelation on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” came after the New York Times revealed that O’Reilly paid a $32 million sexual harassment settlement in January, a few months before he was ousted from Fox News. Despite reports that he’d paid settlements to several women who accused him of sexual harassment, O’Reilly claimed that no one at the network ever lodged a formal complaint against him.
“In the more than 20 years Bill O’Reilly worked at Fox News, not one complaint was filed against him with the Human Resources Department or Legal Department by a coworker, even on the anonymous hotline,” an O’Reilly spokesman said over the weekend.
Kelly noted that while it’s possible no woman filed a formal complaint to human resources, she herself complained to executives about O’Reilly in an email she sent in November 2016.
“Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report, in my experience,” she said. “However, O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false. I know because I complained.”
O’Reilly refused to discuss allegations against Ailes in an appearance on CBS News the day Kelly’s book was released, saying, “I’m not interested in, basically, litigating something that is finished, that makes my networks look bad.” Kelly said that interview prompted her to complain to Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy, the co-presidents of Fox News.
Kelly said she wrote in the email at the time:
“Perhaps he didn’t realize the kind of message his criticism sends to young women across this country about how men continue to view the issue of speaking out about sexual harassment. Perhaps he didn’t realize that his exact attitude of shaming women into shutting the hell up about harassment on grounds that ‘it will disgrace the company’ is in part how Fox News got into the decade-long Ailes mess to begin with. Perhaps it’s his own history of harassment of women which has, as you both know, resulted in payouts to more than one woman, including recently, that blinded him to the folly of saying anything other than ‘I am just so sorry for the women of this company who never should have had to go through that.’”
Kelly recalled that Shine told her that he would deal with O’Reilly. However, O’Reilly went on air that same night to attack Ailes’ accusers, she noted.
“This is not unique to Fox News. Women everywhere are used to being dismissed, ignored or attacked when raising complaints about men in authority positions. They stay silent so often out of fear,” Kelly said.
The former Fox host also called out the media relations head at Fox News, who’s reported to retaliate against ex-employees who speak out against the network by orchestrating negative coverage in the press.
“At Fox News, the media relations chief Irena Briganti is known for her vindictiveness. To this day, she pushes negative articles on certain Ailes accusers, like the one you are looking at right now,” Kelly said.
Kelly did say that Fox News “has absolutely made some reforms since all of this went down” after calling out Briganti.
Asked about Kelly’s comments about O’Reilly and her complaint, 21st Century Fox replied Monday with a statement about its efforts to change the way the company handles harassment allegations.
“21st Century Fox has taken concerted action to transform Fox News, including installing new leaders, overhauling management and on-air talent, expanding training, and increasing the channels through which employees can report harassment or discrimination,” the company said in a statement. “These changes come from the top, with Lachlan and James Murdoch personally leading the effort to promote civility and respect on the job, while maintaining the Company’s long-held commitment to a diverse, inclusive and creative workplace.”
21st Century Fox later followed up with a statement standing by Irena Briganti.
“Irena is a valued colleague and she has our full support,” the company said in a statement.
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