Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Friday filed a defamation suit against former New Jersey state legislator Michael Panter, following a Facebook post on Tuesday in which Panter detailed alleged sexual harassment by O’Reilly against an unnamed ex-partner of Panter’s.
Panter’s claims, based on conversations with his ex and incidents he says he witnessed, were chilling. Panter says his then-girlfriend’s “career was largely dependent on staying in O’Reilly’s good graces,” and that O’Reilly repeatedly “asked her out” and made sexually charged late-night phone calls to her.
Panter’s story also implicates Fox News leadership, whom he says helped coordinate an effort by O’Reilly to pressure Panter’s ex into helping discredit other accusers. Panter wrote that he was recounting the incidents because his former partner had reached a settlement with O’Reilly, and was bound by a non-disclosure agreement.
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O’Reilly’s suit was filed in New York Supreme Court, and can be read in full at Mashable. It claims that Panter’s Facebook post is “defamatory and false” and caused “public hatred, ridicule, disgrace, and permanent harm to [O’Reilly’s] professional and personal reputations”.
Panter issued a followup statement after O’Reilly filed his suit, emphasizing that his initial claims were true, and that “after discussing this matter with a leading firm, I believe there is a strong basis to bring [counter] defamation claims against Mr. O’Reilly.” Panter is a Harvard Law School graduate, and served in the New Jersey State Assembly in the mid-2000s.
Seeking damages is a change of pace for O’Reilly, who has spent years paying his many accusers to stay silent. O’Reilly was fired by Fox News in April after reports emerged that he had paid out as much as $13 million to settle five harassment claims. This month, it was revealed that O’Reilly had also reached a $32 million settlement with a Fox News employee who accused O’Reilly of misconduct, including non-consensual sex.