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Katie Sullivan

Author ››› Katie Sullivan
  • Revelations from Bill O'Reilly's settlements underscore how Fox News enables its sexual harassers

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On April 3, a federal judge denied a motion by former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly to seal settlement agreements made with women who say he sexually harassed them. According to CNN, the attorneys representing the plaintiffs said the terms of the agreements include requiring one of the women to lie -- even under oath -- and levying what CNN called “onerous” penalties to enforce the agreement. The agreements are yet more evidence of the toxic, enabling culture at Fox News, which reportedly helped O’Reilly sweep these accusations under the rug.

    O’Reilly’s reported sexual harassment and abuse are now well-documented. The former Fox star was fired from the network after advertisers fled his show following a New York Times report that he had paid out at least $13 million to five women. It was later revealed that O’Reilly paid another woman $32 million to halt a sexual harassment lawsuit.

    But O’Reilly did not act alone; he was enabled by Fox News, which has a long history of protecting sexual harassers and abusers and which has a culture described by one former employee as a “sex-fueled, Playboy mansion-like cult steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.” And, according to the Times, when one of O’Reilly’s accusers filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, “Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly adopted an aggressive strategy that served as a stark warning of what could happen to women if they came forward with complaints. … Before [former Fox producer Andrea] Mackris even filed suit, Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly surprised her with a pre-emptive suit of their own.”

    Here are details about some of the terms of that settlement Fox allegedly helped O’Reilly secure, as reported by CNN:

    The judge's ruling means that certain terms of the settlements are coming to light for the first time. A motion filed Wednesday by Neil Mullin and Nancy Erika Smith, the attorneys representing the three plaintiffs, claims that the settlement reached with Andrea Mackris, a former Fox News producer who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against O'Reilly in 2004, required her to "lie -- even in legal proceedings or under oath -- if any evidence becomes public, by calling evidence 'counterfeit' or 'forgeries.'"

    The potential penalties etched in the settlements were particularly onerous. If Mackris goes public about the details of the settlement, the agreement stated that she "shall 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."

    The filing asserts that Mackris' attorney, Benedict Morelli, switched sides and agreed to become O'Reilly's lawyer while negotiating the agreement.

    "This profoundly unethical conflict left Ms. Mackris virtually without legal counsel," the filing said.

    Morelli disputed those assertions in a statement.

    "We worked extremely hard to secure a significant financial settlement for her (Mackris)," he said. "The claim that I did not vigorously represent her, or that I represented O'Reilly during or after the settlement process, is absolutely false."

    This post has been updated with Morelli's statement.

  • Fox's Chris Wallace asks if GOP hurt its credibility by hyping "secret society" text, ignoring that Fox News hyped it too

    Fox News aired the phrase “secret society” over 100 times over two days, then went silent after reports showed the text was a joke

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace displayed a shocking lack of self-awareness when he asked his guest, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), if “Republicans hurt their credibility on real issues of bias when they make such a big deal about secret societies and palace coups?” referring to the GOP hyping a text message between two FBI employees referencing a "secret society." Wallace ignored Fox News’ role in hyping the texts, airing the term "secret society" over 100 times on Fox News over the course of two days, before stopping abruptly after it was reported the “secret society” reference was likely a joke.

    On January 22, Gowdy appeared on Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum along with Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), where he announced that a text message between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page contained the line, “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox proceeded to air the phrase "secret society" over 100 times over the next two days. Then, on January 24, ABC News noted that the message "may have been made in jest," reporting that the full text message read: "Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society." The next day, Fox hosts, anchors, and guests stopped mentioning the phrase "secret society" almost entirely, with only a few quick mentions on some of the evening shows.

    From the January 28 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

    CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): WALLACE: I want to ask you one last question, we're running out of time here. There's clearly some troubling evidence and clearly the Strzok-Page memos [texts] are deeply troubling, and, you know, go to it in investigating that. There also have been some issues of potential hype by Republicans, and I want to give you an example. This week Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) brought up the issue of a secret society inside the Justice Department. Here he is. 


    WALLACE: Don't Republicans hurt their credibility on real issues of bias when they make such a big deal about secret societies and palace coups? 

    REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Yes. Republicans are the best I've ever seen at taking good facts and overstating them and therefore changing the narrative. I don't know what they meant by secret society. I didn't use the phrase. It is fair to ask them. But if it were a joke, Chris, then was it also a joke to mention the insurance policy? Was also a joke to talk about impeachment the morning after President Trump won? Was it also a joke to say I have no interest in participating in an investigation if he is going to be cleared. There's a pattern, and Republicans are better served by letting the texts speak for themselves. I have no idea what they meant by that. I don't know if it was a joke or not. It's not my job to figure it out. These two witnesses need to come in and tell us what they meant by it and everything they else said over the course of 18 months, Republicans would be well served, let the texts speak for themselves. Let the jury make up their mind and quit engaging in hyperbole, which we seem to do a lot. 

  • On Breitbart radio, Kris Kobach repeats debunked claims about New Hampshire voter fraud

    Kobach is a leader of Trump's voter suppression commission and a paid Breitbart columnist


    On Breitbart News Daily, Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the Trump administration’s commission investigating baseless claims of rampant voter fraud, estimated that “4,000 people who are from out of state and never actually moved to New Hampshire … voted there” in the 2016 election using out-of-state driver’s licenses. In fact, New Hampshire’s voter ID law permits out-of-state driver’s licenses to be used as proof of identity when registering to vote, an option that college students often exercise. And after President Donald Trump and other conservatives raised earlier claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire over the use of out-of-state licenses to vote, New Hampshire Public Radio matched many of the out-of-state license users to college towns.

    Kobach, who has a history of extremism, ties to white supremacists, and promotion of misinformation on immigration and voting issues, has previously made bizarre claims about voter fraud, voter intimidation, and undocumented immigrants voting. In one instance, he claimed that a dead man had voted in 2006 who was later found to in fact be alive, and he said in another interview that “We may never know” whether Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote in 2016.

    From the December 8 edition of SiriusXM Patriot's Breitbart News Daily:

    STEPHEN BANNON (HOST): Just real briefly, on your voter integrity commission, you had a stunning revelation up in New Hampshire. Can you just get people up to speed on where you stand right now, and maybe speak a minute or two about New Hampshire?

    KRIS KOBACH: Yeah, sure. So New Hampshire is one of those states that has same-day voter registration, which is something I think is a disaster because if you allow people to walk in on the day of election and say here I am, here's my name, take my word for it, and I'm not -- and also take my word for the fact that I just moved to your state. It leads to all kinds of problems. New Hampshire found on Election Day this past November that 5,300 people -- well actually, over 6,000 people, six and a half thousand -- used an out-of-state driver's license as their ID on that day. Then they went back and checked almost a year later in September, this past September, and found that 5,300 of those people still have not established New Hampshire residence. They had not gone ahead and gotten a New Hampshire license, they had registered any vehicle in New Hampshire. And it appeared that these individuals are probably not residing in New Hampshire. That's a really -- now it's theoretically possible that some of them might be out-of-state students who do not own a vehicle, and through some of the vagaries of New Hampshire law, it might qualify as a domicile in New Hampshire eligible to vote. But even if you say, let's knock off another 1,000. Let's say it's only 4,000 people who are from out of state and never actually moved to New Hampshire, yet voted there, that's extraordinary because in the Electoral College contest, New Hampshire went to Clinton by a 2,700 vote margin. The New Hampshire U.S. senator, [Maggie] Hassan, beat the Republican, [Kelly] Ayotte, by just over 1,000 votes. And so you're talking about the margin of victory being lower, less than the number of likely individuals who never actually moved to New Hampshire, but voted on Election Day using an out-of-state driver's license.

  • Morning news shows ignored report that Trump’s FCC plans to roll back net neutrality

    Only CBS This Morning reported on the FCC commissioner's plan to overturn Obama-era net neutrality protections

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Cable and broadcast morning shows virtually ignored reports that the Republican-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, is expected to reveal his plan to gut net neutrality regulations this week.

    According to the internet advocacy organization Free Press, net neutrality is "the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use." In 2015, the FCC enacted regulations protecting net neutrality, "reclassif[ying] high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service rather than an information one, subjecting providers to regulation under Title II of the Communications Act."

    But as Politico reported on November 20, FCC Chairman Pai, an appointee of President Donald Trump, plans to share a scheme with his fellow commissioners today to dismantle the regulations. The commission is expected to vote in December on the plan, which reportedly "would jettison rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic or creating so-called paid internet fast lanes."

    On November 21, morning news shows failed to inform their audiences about the threat to a free and open internet. CBS This Morning was the only show to feature a report on the development. One guest on MSNBC's Morning Joe briefly mentioned the expected rule change, but the hosts didn't engage with the comment and never brought up the story themselves. There was no mention at all of net neutrality from CNN's New Day, Fox News' Fox & Friends, ABC's Good Morning America, or NBC's Today.

    From CBS This Morning:

    GAYLE KING (HOST): The New York Times says the FCC is planning a repeal of net neutrality rules created during the Obama era. The proposal is expected to be unveiled later today. Internet service providers would no longer be required to give equal access to all content. It would permit them to slow web traffic or charge more to view certain content. FCC commissioners are expected to back the proposal in December. The FCC declined to comment on this.

    The move from the FCC was not unforeseeable; in April, Pai announced plans to undo open-internet rules. And, as Wired detailed, "Pai has narrowed the scope of the rules since taking over as chair in January":

    In February, for example, he ended an investigation into whether AT&T and Verizon used data limits for anticompetitive purposes, effectively ruling that the two companies could exempt their own video services from customers' data caps but still charge for data used by their competitors’ services.


    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “neutrality” on the November 21 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, NBC’s Today, CNN’s New Day, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • Google is still profiting from a racist fake news site that promotes violence 

    Freedom Daily hosts Google ads right next to racist content that advocates for anti-Muslim violence


    Google advertising network AdSense is helping monetize racist and dangerous anti-Muslim articles from the fake news website Freedom Daily, despite clear violations of AdSense’s policies prohibiting content that "[t]hreatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others" or “incites hatred against” an individual or group on the basis of race or religion.

    Racist content is part of Freedom Daily’s DNA. Between September 15 and October 15, the site published over 100 articles about the recent NFL player protests in support of civil rights, many of which denigrated black players because they are black and falsely claimed that the protests led to anti-white attacks. And Freedom Daily’s posts about NFL players are just part of its targeted racist content, which includes articles promoting violence and hatred against Muslims.

    In recent testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel claimed that the company has “taken steps” to demonetize misrepresentative websites and has added to its policies “around or against hate speech.” According to Google AdSense’s policies, “We don’t permit monetization of dangerous or derogatory content”:

    Dangerous or derogatory content

    We believe strongly in freedom of expression, but we don't permit monetization of dangerous or derogatory content. For this reason, Google ads may not be placed on pages containing content that:

    • Threatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others;
    • Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals;
    • Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.

    But Google AdSense is still profiting off of multiple fake news sites, including Freedom Daily and its related site mPolitical (mPolitical features the same posts and bylines as Freedom Daily, and the two sites share a Google ad code), by providing advertising to them in a clear contradiction of its policies (which also prohibit “misrepresentative content”). Here are 10 posts from Freedom Daily swarmed by ads from AdSense that Google might want to take a look at:

    Note: The blue arrow in the corner of an ad indicates that it was placed by AdSense.

    “Desperate Tennessee residents are frantically crying out for help, as the small town they once loved and cherished is being completely overrun by hordes of nasty Muslim migrants.”


    A 2017 Freedom Daily story published at least twice claimed "nasty Muslim migrants" from Somalia were taking over a Tennessee town and targeting Christians. Snopes looked at the July 25 version and rated it false, stating, “Based on the evidence we were able to amass, Shelbyville, Tennessee doesn’t have a Somali refugee problem; Freedom Daily, on the other hand, does” (emphasis original):

    As many Americans were left in shock and horror following the Minnesota woman being violently shot down by a Somali Muslim cop, now Somali migrants have set their sights on another American city to invade. Desperate Tennessee residents are frantically crying out for help, as the small town they once loved and cherished is being completely overrun by hordes of nasty Muslim migrants, who have now started targeting local Christians with violent Islamic crimes.


    Somali Muslims are proving to be the most violent migrants due to the vicious jihadist-ruled country they’re plucked from before making their way to the United States. Somali Muslims are not only overtaking Shelbyville and forcing Sharia onto the populace, but the city of Minneapolis as well. In addition to the disturbing headlines of the Somali cop gunning down a white woman last week, Somali migrants completely took over a small Minnesota white neighborhood several months back and started threatening to rape and murder females who were standing in their yards. [Freedom Daily, 7/25/17,  11/1/17; Snopes, 7/31/17]

    Michelle Obama “Goes Full-Ghetto” by attending a tour of the Siena Cathedral in a “slutty” shirt.

    An October piece said former first lady Michelle Obama entered an Italian church wearing “a slutty off-the-shoulder top,” claiming she was going “full-ghetto”:

    For the past 8 years, Michelle Obama strutted around like a queen, doing very little work as the First Lady other than running her big fat anti-American mouth. While we’re thankful this piece of work has finally left our White House after making a mockery of our country, what Michelle was caught doing inside a ancient church on Tuesday proves once again just how classless this woman is, who obviously holds herself above all the rules, even in the places of worship that most people revere as the sacred and holy place of God.


    Showing up for a tour of Siena Cathedral in Italy looking like she had been up all night partying at a strip club, many people were quite astonished at the amount of skin Michelle was showing, as flaunted a slutty off-the-shoulder top that was a strict violation of the Siena Cathedral’s rules. [Freedom Daily, 10/18/17]

    Headline calls Palestinian people “Cockroaches.”

    A June 2016 piece called Palestinians “cockroaches,” saying they were celebrating a terror attack. [Freedom Daily, 6/8/16]

    "OF COURSE….Muslim Machete Attacker Was Here On Green Card From Africa"

    [Freedom Daily, 2/23/16]

    “ISLAM Needs to Be ERADICATED From the Earth.”

    Freedom Daily published a post about an ISIS propaganda video headlined “What This Muslim Father Did to His Son Proves ISLAM Needs to Be ERADICATED From the Earth.” [Freedom Daily, 2/24/16]

    Michael Brown’s family “Hit The Ghetto Lottery.”

    A July piece described a settlement given to the family of  Michael Brown --  a black teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer in 2014 while unarmed -- as a win of “the ghetto lottery.” The post went on to attack Brown’s family for having the “audacity” to argue that “the death of the two-bit thug” would deprive the family of potential wages. From the July 2 article:

    Take note America, In today’s America if you are a minority and raise a two-bit thug who gets himself killed for intimidating people and attacking a police officer the government will reward you with so much money that you will be able to fly around to exotic locations on your very own private jet. This is what Obama must have meant by the slogan “Hope and Change.”


    Although their son didn’t even live with them, they actually had the audacity to argue that the death of the two-bit thug that they raised deprived them of financial support through his future potential wages. Umm, you won’t make 1.5 million dollars working at McDonald’s, if he was even qualified to work there.


    This is Obama’s America. This is what we, as a nation, got for electing a race baiting charlatan with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. We are in serious trouble when you raise a kid to be a two-bit thug and the government, out of fear of looting and riots, takes it upon its self to reward you with a 1.5 million dollar payday because society had to fix the problem you raised. [Freedom Daily, 7/2/17; The Associated Press, 6/23/17]

    Man “driving a van [that] plowed through a group of Muslims” gave them a “taste of their own medicine.”  

    A June piece said that “political correctness and liberal politicians are providing to be Islam’s final advocate,” while “one resident finally snapped” and attacked Muslims outside a mosque:

    Authorities have done little to prevent terror attacks from plaguing Europe. Muslim refugees continue to flood places like the U.K. and Germany, while citizens continue to be brutally victimized with terror attacks, as political correctness and liberal politicians are proving to be Islam’s biggest advocate. As the U.K. continues to be targeted in recent months, one resident finally snapped and decided to give Muslims a brutal taste of their own medicine after what he did to a group of Muslims who had gathered for prayers outside their mosque a little after midnight last night. [Freedom Daily, 6/19/17]

    “Americans aren’t the ones who should run and hide and live like victims, it’s Muslims who need to be afraid. They don’t run this show anymore.”

    An October piece cheered a Louisiana sheriff-turned-lawmaker for “sending a message that … Muslims who need to be afraid”:

    Finally, someone has come out and given an assertive directive Americans have been desperate to hear for eight years. With a new sheriff in town, this former sheriff is empowered to give blunt advice like this rather than apologies. While it may seem like an impossibility to cleans the country of Islam, it’s a lot more feasible than loving terrorist out of committing acts of terror. More importantly, it’s sending a message that Americans aren’t the ones who should run and hide and live like victims, it’s Muslims who need to be afraid. They don’t run this show anymore. [Freedom Daily, 10/15/17]

    Sesame Street is “threatening indoctrination” by showing children “a heaping spoonful of Islamic propaganda.”

    An April 2016 piece criticized the TV show Sesame Street for “having a Muslim woman teach young girls about female empowerment”:

    Instead of sticking with basic education like numbers, the alphabet, and the occasional sing-along about treating others with kindness, the adored children’s program is kicking off their near 50-year run with perhaps the most threatening indoctrination yet. One-upping controversial episodes on topics including HIV, death, and Katy Perry’s barely-there wardrobe, the puppet-laden television show just gave our children a heaping spoonful of Islamic propaganda.


    Having a Muslim woman teach young girls about female empowerment is like having a slave teach a free people about emancipation. How can one who is still chained speak of freedom? There is no personal experience to backup their claims. Even more so, they are the definition of a bound servant who believes they are free. [Freedom Daily, 4/10/16]

  • Fox & Friends spent less than 4 minutes on Roy Moore

    Here's what the show covered instead


    Fox News’ flagship morning show, Fox & Friends, spent less than four minutes covering a report in The Washington Post in which four women came forward and said that Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore made sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers, one as young as 14 years old.

    During the three-hour show, Fox & Friends spent only 3 minutes and 48 seconds discussing the report, focusing largely on the White House’s response. Here are some of the things the hosts covered instead:

    Laura Ingraham complaining about critics of President Donald Trump:

    A professor who called “whiteness” a “structure of privilege”:

    Someone calling for another Hillary Clinton probe:

    An NFL boycott by Facebook users:

    Accusations of liberal bias on college campuses:

    A 96-year-old Australian driver getting into a car accident:

    First lady Melania Trump visiting a zoo:

    A different Washington Post article:

  • Right-wing media reacted to presidential disaster response very differently when Obama was president

    ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Right-wing media have been quick to praise President Donald Trump for his response to Hurricane Harvey and the aftermath, lauding his tweets as well as pictures released of him in meetings, claiming that “symbolism matters as well as the execution,” and attacking critics who have pointed out that Trump has done several highly political things during the hurricane that was downgraded to a tropical storm. The current tone of the conservative media sphere is a radical departure from the tone during disasters under former President Barack Obama’s tenure, when they claimed he was just doing “photo-ops,” said he was ineffective, and lambasted him for not visiting disaster areas immediately despite local officials asking him not to come so that resources could be spent helping victims.

  • Right-wing media bury stories on Senate GOP delaying vote that would gut American health care

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Conservative media outlets buried Senate Republicans’ announcement that they would delay the upcoming vote on their struggling health care bill, instead prominently covering stories about former President Barack Obama’s vacation, the European Union fining Google, and right-wing attacks on CNN.

    On June 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would delay a vote on its deeply unpopular health care bill. The bill, which would kick 22 million people off of health care, faced opposition from both moderate and far-right Republicans and had no Democratic support, making it unclear if it would pass through the Senate.

    After the announcement, right-wing media decided to keep its focus on other stories, as was pointed out on Twitter:

    Twitterati didn’t miss the irony of Fox highlighting Obama’s vacation either:

  • Glenn Beck Blames Media Matters For Advertiser "Purge" Of Serial Sexual Harasser Bill O'Reilly

    Beck Attacks Advertiser Boycotts While Simultaneously Claiming The Boycotters Never Even Advertised On O'Reilly's Show

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Almost six years after former Fox News host Glenn Beck insisted that Media Matters had nothing to do with the decline in his show’s advertising and its eventual termination, he went on his radio program to blame Media Matters for Fox dropping host Bill O'Reilly. A recent report revealed that O'Reilly and Fox News have paid $13 million in settlements for sexual harassment, sparking an advertiser boycott of his show and leading to his ouster from the channel.

    Beck devoted much of his April 19 radio show to calling on his listeners to help save O’Reilly after news broke that the board of directors of 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, would be meeting to decide O’Reilly’s fate. Just a few hours later, 21st Century confirmed that “Mr. O’Reilly will not return to the Fox News Channel.” O’Reilly’s advertisers largely abandoned his show after The New York Times reported on the settlements, and it appears that some advertisers are gearing up to drop Fox entirely. These advertisers are rejecting the hostile and predatory corporate environment Fox has created and allowed to fester for over a decade and are recognizing the liability that associating with such behavior presents for them.

    Beck’s own show, which aired on Fox News from 2009 to 2011, was terminated after a decline in revenue, ratings, and relevance. An advertiser boycott led by Media Matters President Angelo Carusone resulted in more than 300 advertisers pulling their ads from Beck’s program after he called former President Barack Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people." In February 2010, the broadcast of Beck's show in the UK lost all advertisers and began airing without any commercials. Fox saw a decline in both the number of paid advertisements running during Beck's show and, according to industry data, in what key advertisers would pay for an ad during his show.

    The day before Fox announced that his show was being terminated, Beck insisted that Carusone’s campaign was not responsible for his show’s decline. Today he again claimed that the advertiser boycott didn’t hurt his show because the boycotters never advertised on his show to begin with; yet he’s now making a similar argument on O’Reilly’s behalf, while simultaneously insisting that Media Matters is “behind this with Bill O’Reilly.” According to Beck, the advertisers “that are boycotting Bill O'Reilly, most of them I'm sure never ever were even on Bill O'Reilly's show,” but he told his listeners to contact Fox News nonetheless to let it know that “‘we [can’t] stand with you if you're just letting Media Matters purge people.” From the April 19 edition of The Glenn Beck Program:

    Oh, and that's right, Media Matters, who's behind this with Bill O'Reilly, they said that they believe that Fox News and Bill O'Reilly are currently the leader in conservative misinformation.


    This is a purge, and it's going to be a hard purge. It's going to hurt. You need to decide where you are, and I recommend that if you find, just Google search list of advertisers that won't -- that are boycotting Bill O'Reilly, most of them I'm sure never ever were even on Bill O'Reilly's show. Some of them were, but you should probably write to them today and say, “If Bill O'Reilly is fired because you canceled, I will never buy your product again." You should write to Fox News Channel, “I want you to know, I'm not sure we can stand with you if you're just letting Media Matters purge people.”

    Beck also invited O’Reilly’s lawyer to offer a defense of the Fox host on the program.

  • Bill O’Reilly Is A Sexual Predator And Fox News Is A Hostile Work Environment. Advertisers Are Fleeing Because That’s A Liability.

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    A New York Times report revealed that $13 million has been paid in settlements to avoid sexual harassment lawsuits against Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, causing advertisers to flee his program. As Media Matters president Angelo Carusone has explained, the issue at hand is one of serious predatory sexual harassment and a corporation that has tolerated and enabled it while expressing no sincere interest in addressing its hostile work environment. Fox will suffer financially from the loss of advertisers in the long term, as the ad rates for O’Reilly’s show will almost certainly never recover, but the problem extends beyond O’Reilly; Fox News as a whole is a liability for advertisers.

    On April 1, The New York Times reported that five women had received payments totaling nearly $13 million from either O’Reilly or Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their” reports of sexual harassment involving O’Reilly. The women described their experiences of “verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating.” Two days after the Times article was published, Mercedes-Benz announced that it would no longer advertise during The O’Reilly Factor, calling the report “disturbing” and stating that, “Given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.” Since then, at least 70 of O’Reilly’s advertisers have stated that they are pulling their ads from his show, and those are just the ones who have made public statements.

    The advertisers fleeing from O’Reilly are rejecting the hostile and predatory corporate environment Fox has created and allowed to fester for over a decade and are recognizing the liability that associating with such behavior presents for them. The boycott is not a suppression of free speech, and the women who have told their stories are not describing controversial behavior; they are describing predatory and potentially criminal acts, a distinction Media Matters president Angelo Carusone explained in an interview with business magazine Fast Company:

    [Carusone] points out that O’Reilly’s issue is not one of free speech but rather of behavior. The charges against him, other Fox colleagues, and Fox itself are serious and mounting. “Sexual harassment is a really big fucking problem in this country,” says Carusone. “I do think it matters if you have corporate leaders standing up and saying, hey, this is an issue that we think is a super-big third rail, and so even if you give a whiff of this, we’re not going to go anywhere near it.”


    Carusone and others try to draw a line by saying that the trigger for action is a pattern of prejudice or bullying behavior, not merely disagreeable opinions. “We never want to silence somebody, but we don’t want to make it profitable to be involved in sexual harassment,” says the Sleeping Giants spokesman. Carusone agrees, adding that “it’s playing with fire” to use corporate influence as a tool to punish journalists. “But I also don’t think you should be rewarded for being a total bully.”

    And as Carusone told Politico:

    “This is not based off of an outrage moment, but rather, it’s responsive to a deep pattern of sexual harassment,” Carusone said. “It doesn’t have a political partisan lens, the way maybe a comment around an individual would have or a statement that some people may find outrageous and others may not. This is about behavior that is universally wrong.”

    The mounting number of advertisers who have already removed their ads from O’Reilly’s show is only the initial problem for Fox; previous advertiser boycott campaigns indicate that O’Reilly’s ad rates will suffer permanently, making him less profitable for Fox News in the long term. In 2009, Carusone initiated a campaign against former Fox host Glenn Beck in response to his venomous, vitriolic manner and his bullying behavior. Advertisers abandoned Beck’s show as he spouted insurrectionist rhetoric and previewed how unhinged the right-wing would become under President Barack Obama. His ad rates never recovered.

    Carusone explained to Cheddar News, “For over a year, [Fox News] absorbed the losses that Glenn Beck cost them, but when they finally fired him they -- and Fox News said it themselves if you go back and look at the statements there -- if you have a television show and you have advertiser problems, you no longer have a television show that is viable.”

    Additionally, Carusone told The New Yorker, “‘When you create critical mass, even if other ads are still running, they just won’t pay the same. … At worst, even if Bill O’Reilly stays on the air until he’s ready to leave, his advertising rates will diminish. And the more advertisers that leave, the more that will be affected. It’s market forces.’”

    Carusone’s point was illustrated by a similar campaign against talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who became toxic for advertisers after his days-long sexist meltdown over Sandra Fluke in 2012. Limbaugh’s show has been demoted in major media markets and he was evidently forced to take a sizable pay cut when he renegotiated his contract last year.

    Advertisers now need to ask themselves whether abandoning just O’Reilly is enough. On April 4, Carusone released a statement that asked whether the Fox host’s advertisers were comfortable associating their brands with a serial sexual harasser  and an organization that has fundamentally mishandled the reports, revealing a culture of silence and complacency around sexual harassment at Fox News:

    On the latter, it’s already clear that Fox News has grossly mishandled these allegations as well as the deeper culture of harassment and abuse there. Instead of putting a stop to sexual harassment, they appear to have worked to sweep it under the rug. And there is zero indication that Fox News intends on changing their approach.

    On the former, this should be a no-brainer. The mere fact that a company would even hesitate about whether it’s appropriate to associate with serial sexual harassment is a reflection not only of those companies’ values, but just how deep of an issue this is in our society.

    Sexual harassment is a problem in society at large, not unique to just O’Reilly or Fox. According to a 2015 survey, one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 has been sexually harassed at work. Additionally, according to the survey, of those who had “experienced workplace sexual harassment, 29 percent reported the issue while 71 percent did not.”

    And the reports about O’Reilly’s behavior are just the latest example of Fox News’ rampant culture of sexual harassment that seems to be a feature, not a bug. A decade of lawsuits, reports of sexual harassment, and settlements shows a clear a pattern of corporate retaliation, victim-blaming, and million dollar payouts for silence that simultaneously protect and defend the network's premier names and executives. Fox’s former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes was forced out last summer after multiple reports of sexual harassment and a lawsuit that was ultimately settled for $20 million. Fox News co-presidents Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy have both been reported for participating in Fox’s culture of silence when it comes to sexual harassment. New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that Shine and other executives were not only aware of Ailes’ reported sexual harassment of Fox News employees, but were also actively involved in helping Ailes “cover up” his actions.

    Despite claiming to investigate and take seriously this culture of rampant sexual harassment, the network chose to renew O’Reilly’s contract last week.