Fox News has ousted Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and Eric Bolling after charges of sexual harassment and abuse. These moves were part of an aggressive effort to, in the words of the company, “transform Fox News.”
Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News star, said on her new NBC show this morning that Fox News had not been transformed.
Kelly emotionally recounted her own experience in reporting the conduct of O’Reilly, who attacked Kelly after she wrote about issues with Roger Ailes in a book she released in November 2016.
“I’m not interested in this,” an angry O’Reilly said in an appearance on CBS News at the time. “I’m not interested in basically litigating something that is finished that makes my network look bad. OK? I’m not interested in making my network look bad. At all. That doesn’t interest me one bit.”
Kelly revealed that in respnse to O’Reilly’s comments, she wrote an email to the co-presidents of Fox News, Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy. “[H]is 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,” Kelly wrote. “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 was promised by Shine and Abernathy that they would take care of it. That night, according to Kelly, O’Reilly was “permitted, with management’s advance notice and blessing to go on the air and attack the company’s harassment victims yet again.”
Kelly added that victims are often kept silent through “fear of public shaming, including through the media.” She noted that Irena Briganti, Fox’s media relations chief, is still in place and “is known for her vindictiveness.”
“To this day [Briganti] pushes negative articles on certain Ailes accusers like the one you are looking at right now,” Kelly said, fighting back tears.
Kelly’s monologue comes on the heels of a bombshell report in the New York Times which revealed that O’Reilly paid a $32 million settlement to one woman, Lis Wiehl, just before Fox News resigned him to a huge new contract. Fox News was aware of the basic terms of the settlement, if not the exact amount.
Kelly also hosted Juliet Huddy, one of O’Reilly’s accusers, and her attorney Doug Wigdor. Huddy could not speak specifically about her interactions with O’Reilly because she signed a non-disclosure agreement.
But Wigdor pointed out an aspect of the New York Times’ reporting that could cause Fox News trouble down the line. Fox News received a release from the agreement and was aware of its basic terms, which included the destruction of emails and texts from O’Reilly to Wiehl. This came as federal prosecutors were investigating the company for failing to disclose their issues with Ailes to investors.
Emails obtained by the New York Times reveal that company attorneys knew prosecutors would be interested in the O’Reilly incident. Wigdor suggested Fox News’ complicity could open them to obstruction of justice or other charges.
This article has been updated to correct the name of Juliet Huddy’s attorney, Doug Wigdor.