Bill O’Reilly and Fox News Are Sued by a Woman They Already Settled With
Former For News host Bill O’Reilly is being sued for defamation and breach of contract by one of the six known women who have settled misconduct accusations against him during his tenure at the network.
Lawyers for former Fox News producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, who settled with O’Reilly in 2002 over mistreatment (not sexual harassment), filed the lawsuit Monday morning in U.S. federal court in New York.
In April, O’Reilly was fired from Fox News, where he worked for 20 years and was the network’s star, after a New York Times report revealed the network had paid millions of dollars in settlements over his alleged misbehavior.
Bernstein’s defamation and breach of contract suit against O’Reilly and Fox News stems from comments O’Reilly made about that New York Times article. In a statement to the Times, O’Reilly said he was “vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” and portrayed himself and Fox News as targets of “those who would harm me and my employer.”
Bernstein’s suit alleges that these comments cast her as a “liar and politically motivated extortionist,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Bernstein’s lawyers, Neil Mullin and Nancy Erika Smith, say in the suit that Bernstein was not the Times’ source of information for its article, and that O’Reilly broke the settlement’s confidentiality clause. If asked about the settlement, parties to the settlement were supposed to respond with, “The matter has been resolved (or settled),” Bernstein’s suit claims.
Fox News is also named in the suit. Bernstein’s lawyers say that the statement it made in the initial Times report—”that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly”—is false, alleging that there was no such hotline. The suit also claims that Bernstein complained about O’Reilly’s behavior to human resources, but nothing was done.
“This cynical falsehood about a nonexistent hotline was made to bolster O’Reilly’s claim that the women who received settlements must have fabricated their claims or they would have complained,” Smith, said in a statement. “But Ms. Bernstein did complain. There is ample evidence that Fox News, with the complicity of top executives, enabled the abuse of women for many years, then silenced them with nondisclosure agreements and nondisparagement clauses.”
Fortune contacted Bernstein’s lawyers Smith and Mullin. Their office was closed, and we will update as needed. Fox News declined to comment.