STUDY: Fox News Barely Covered Bill O'Reilly's Harassment Settlements

CNN’s Brian Stelter Provides Exemplary Coverage Of The Accusations

››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & NINA MAST

Fox News gave minimal coverage to a New York Times report detailing $13 million in settlements host Bill O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox paid to five women who accused him of harassment. When Fox did cover the report, the coverage was merely a host reading statements from O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox denying the allegations, echoing the network’s coverage of Fox founder Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment allegations. Meanwhile, CNN’s Brian Stelter provided exemplary coverage of the report, contextualizing it and speaking to people close to the accusers.

NY Times Reported On Bill O’Reilly’s Five Sexual Harassment And Verbal Abuse Settlements Totaling $13 Million

NY Times Found That Five Women Have Received Settlements After Accusing Fox’s Bill O’Reilly Of Harassment And Abuse. A New York Times investigation found that 21st Century Fox and Fox host Bill O’Reilly paid $13 million to settle with five women who accused the host of sexual harassment or verbal abuse. The report explained that the women “complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating,” adding, “The reporting suggests a pattern: As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.” From the April 1 report:

For nearly two decades, Bill O’Reilly has been Fox News’s top asset, building the No. 1 program in cable news for a network that has pulled in billions of dollars in revenues for its parent company, 21st Century Fox.

Behind the scenes, the company has repeatedly stood by Mr. O’Reilly as he faced a series of allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior.

An investigation by The New York Times has found a total of five women who have received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.

[...]

The women who made allegations against Mr. O’Reilly either worked for him or appeared on his show. They have complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews.

The reporting suggests a pattern: As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.

Of the five settlements, two were previously known — one for about $9 million in 2004 with a producer, and another struck last year with a former on-air personality, which The Times reported on in January. The Times has learned new details related to those cases.

[...]

The three other settlements were uncovered by The Times. Two involved sexual harassment claims against Mr. O’Reilly, and the other was for verbal abuse related to an episode in which he berated a young producer in front of newsroom colleagues. [The New York Times, 4/1/17]

Fox News, Fox Business Barely Cover Report

Fox News Barely Covered NY Times Report While Fox Business Ignored It. The only coverage the New York Times report received on Fox News was during the April 2 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz. Host Howard Kurtz took less than two minutes to address the settlements and merely read statements from O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox denying the accusations, for total of one minute and 21 seconds. Fox Business Network did not cover the report at all. [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 4/2/17]

CNN Spent 26 Minutes On Report While MSNBC Didn't Cover The Settlements. While Fox News barely discussed the New York Times report, CNN spent 26 minutes on it. However, MSNBC didn't cover the settlements at all.

CNN’s Brian Stelter Provided Exemplary Coverage Of The Report

Stelter Spent 22 Minutes Discussing Sexual Harassment At Fox News In His One Hour Sunday Show. On his show, Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter spent a total of 22 minutes and 4 seconds discussing the report. Stelter opened his show by contextualizing the settlements and the “toxic culture” inside Fox News. In a later segment, Stelter interviewed Lisa Bloom, the attorney representing one of O’Reilly’s accusers. [CNN, Reliable Sources, 4/2/17, 4/2/17]

Fox Previously Whitewashed Harassment Allegations Against The Company And Key Figures

Multiple Fox Figures Rallied Around Former Chairman Roger Ailes Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations. Fox personalities, including Geraldo Rivera, Neil Cavuto, Bret Baier, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Sean Hannity, expressed support for former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes amid allegations that he sexually harassed dozens of women. Cavuto said the accusations “don’t remotely resemble the Roger that I know,” while Guilfoyle said “nobody believed” the allegations because Ailes “champions women.” Baier told The Daily Beast he “can’t say enough good about Roger.” [Media Matters, 7/11/16]

Fox News Went To Extraordinary Lengths To Avoid Covering Allegations Against Ailes. On several occasions Fox News went out of its way to avoid covering allegations women made against Ailes. The glaring omission in the coverage was filled at some points by frivolous stories about water slides and a dog chasing away a convenience store robber. Additionally, when Fox did cover the allegations, it leaned heavily on Ailes’ and company statements denying the accusations. [FoxNews.com, 7/6/16; Media Matters, 7/7/16, 10/8/16]

Methodology:

Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “O’Reilly” between 6 am and 11 pm on April 1, 2017 and from 6 am to noon on April 2, 2017 on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox Business. Time counts began with the host’s introduction of the segment or, for an interview or panel discussion, his guest(s) and ended after the host concluded the segment.

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