The longtime Fox News star Bill O’Reilly is out, after more than half a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment. His departure follows the similar ouster of longtime powerful Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who was also forced out this past summer after more than 20 women accused him of sexual harassment. Over 50 advertisers boycotted “The O’Reilly Factor” over revelations O’Reilly and Fox paid $13 million to settle lawsuits by five women who accuse O’Reilly of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior. For more, we speak with civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom. She represents three women who have accused Bill O’Reilly of unwanted sexual advances.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The longtime Fox News star Bill O’Reilly is out, after more than half a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment. His departure follows the similar ouster of longtime powerful Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who was also forced out this past summer after more than 20 women accused him of sexual harassment. Over 50 advertisers boycotted The O’Reilly Factor over revelations O’Reilly and Fox paid $13 million to settle lawsuits by five women who accuse O’Reilly of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior. A sixth woman, Dr. Wendy Walsh, has also accused O’Reilly of harassing her and then retaliating against her professionally when she refused to have sex with him.
AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, a seventh woman, who remains anonymous, accused O’Reilly of harassing her for months with sexually and racially offensive comments and actions. The woman is an African-American clerical worker who worked near O’Reilly. She alleges O’Reilly would make grunting noises like an animal and call her “hot chocolate.” Outside of News Corp.'s New York headquarters Wednesday, protesters handed out flyers reading “Danger: Sexual Predator Works Here” and packets of hot chocolate. Color of Change senior campaign manager Anika Collier Navaroli responded to the news of O'Reilly’s ouster.
ANIKA COLLIER NAVAROLI: At this point, we are so happy that he is gone and he’s no longer going to be able to spit all of his vile comments and everything that comes out of his mouth that’s disparaging not only to women, but specifically to black women and to black folks all over the world. So we’re very happy to see that he’ll be off the air. But we’re not done. We’re going to keep applying pressure and making sure that what’s coming out of these airwaves and what’s happening in these hallways is respectful, and making sure that women everywhere are given dignity.
AMY GOODMAN: While news about Bill O’Reilly’s dismissal was making headlines Wednesday, he was at the Vatican, where he briefly met the pope.
For more, we’re joined by Lisa Bloom, civil rights attorney at The Bloom Firm. She represents three women who have accused Bill O’Reilly of unwanted sexual advances. She is one of the women who’s being credited with bringing Bill O’Reilly down.
Lisa Bloom, it’s very good to have you with us.
LISA BLOOM: Good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened.
LISA BLOOM: Wendy Walsh came to me several months ago and told me that The New York Times wanted to publish her story, and all of her friends were saying to her, “Don’t do it. He’s going to come after you. This is going to be very scary.” She asked me what I thought. I said, “You absolutely have to do it, Wendy. You have to do this for your daughters. You have to do this for other women. I know you’re scared, but I will stand with you at no charge. And not only that, Wendy, but we are going to bring him down.” I promised her that months ago. Three weeks ago, the story broke with Wendy. We had a media and a legal strategy in place. We executed it for the last 18 days. And yesterday, he announced—or the company announced that he had been fired. I think the plan went flawlessly.
AMY GOODMAN: What was the plan?
LISA BLOOM: The plan was, first of all, we have to keep this story in the news. We can’t just let it be a one-day story. And that’s what it would have been. So, Wendy and I did a press conference. Again, she was very scared. We shored her up. We had to do a press conference and make the story be big, so that other accusers would call me. As an attorney, I can’t call them, and I didn’t know who they were anyway, right? But we had to keep the story going. So we released bits of it day by day, giving the story legs, as we say in journalism.
A second accuser did call me, but I needed time to vet her story. I needed to talk to her witnesses. I needed to look at her evidence. I needed to shore her up emotionally. All of these women are very scared. We got her sister in place. We got her three witnesses interviewed. And I was ready to come forward with her. She got scared. I went to North Carolina. I met with her. We shored her up. And we came out with her story a couple days ago. A third accuser, a fourth accuser came out.
I tweeted and I said on many shows that the Murdochs had only one choice, and that was to fire Bill O’Reilly. And if they didn’t, we would continue relentlessly, day after day, having more and more accusers come out publicly. We were not going to let this go. We were going to persist.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Fox News has said no one has complained about Bill O’Reilly on its hotline. So, recently, you and your client, Wendy Walsh, officially called in her complaint. This clip begins with the hotline’s automated response.
FOX NEWS HOTLINE: Now, in one or two sentences, could you please give me the primary reason for your report?
DR. WENDY WALSH: Yes. In 2013, I experienced sexual harassment as a job applicant at Fox News Channel by an employee named Mr. Bill O’Reilly.
FOX NEWS HOTLINE: Hello, ma’am?
DR. WENDY WALSH: Yes?
FOX NEWS HOTLINE: Thank you so much for your patience. And now, is this your first time calling this line?
DR. WENDY WALSH: Yes, it is.
FOX NEWS HOTLINE: And how did you become aware of our phone number?
DR. WENDY WALSH: My attorney, Lisa Bloom, found the phone number in your employee ethics handbook.
FOX NEWS HOTLINE: OK. And what state was this in?
DR. WENDY WALSH: California.
FOX NEWS HOTLINE: OK. And you said you—the person that you’re wishing to report is, first name Bill, B-I-L-L?
DR. WENDY WALSH: Yes.
FOX NEWS HOTLINE: How do you spell his last name?
DR. WENDY WALSH: Capital O, apostrophe, capital R, E-I-L-L-Y.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, can you explain why this hotline was significant and how it played into this case?
LISA BLOOM: Well, as a longtime feminist attorney, I know that I have to do more than just look narrowly at the law. And Wendy’s claims were, in fact, time-barred, because there’s a three-year statute of limitations in New York, and her claims arose from 2013. And I thought, “What else can I do?”
Well, Fox News gave me a wonderful gift the first day this story broke. And that is, they did a public statement: “No one has ever called our hotline.” And a little light bulb went off over my head. “Hotline! Aha!” I’ve had prior sexual harassment cases against Fox News. I had their handbook in my file. I pulled it out, found the hotline number. And I also looked at their internal rules, which had no time deadlines to call the hotline. And I also knew, as a feminist attorney, that once we internally complained, they would have to do an investigation.
So Wendy and I made that call. She was very brave. I had my assistant videotape it so that nobody could say later, “Oh, we didn’t get the call.” We posted that online to give the story some legs that day, to put some public shaming pressure on Fox News. Well, a couple of days later, the attorneys called us. And then I then had all the witness information and evidence in place to give them. And I was already working on accuser number two and accuser number three.
AMY GOODMAN: And this means it goes to the law firm that was supposedly doing an investigation of—
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —of Fox—
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —that the Murdochs said they would comply with what they said?
LISA BLOOM: Yes. That’s the Paul, Weiss law firm. They represent the company. They weren’t doing an independent investigation, as has been falsely reported some other places. And I knew them, again, from some other cases. I knew what was important to them. And I also had accuser number two a couple of days ago phone into the hotline. She chose to do it anonymously, which is an option available to her. Every woman gets to make her own choice. I support that. And yesterday I had accuser number three call into the hotline. So I had the hotline on speed dial by this week.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to what these cases were all about, because now we’re just talking about the accusers. But I do think it’s important as people understand what is acceptable in a workplace, what is abuse. Let’s go to Dr. Wendy Walsh in her own words describing what happened after O’Reilly offered her a job at Fox News over dinner.
DR. WENDY WALSH: So when dinner was finished, he simply said, “Let’s get out of here.” I assumed he meant that we should move to the bar to continue our conversation about my career at Fox News. … And so he caught up with me and said, “No, no. Come back to my suite.” At that point, you know, I’m a woman of a certain age, I’ve had situations like this in my life, I knew how to behave. And I simply said, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” And he immediately got defensive and said, “What do you mean? You think I’m going to attack you or something?” … And then, very soon after, he had the executive producer of the show call me and say that they’re going to take a break from the segment for a little while, but they’d start up again later. Well, they did with the other psychologist, but not me. But I knew it was coming.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about Dr. Wendy Walsh’s case, why this was so important and damaging, and then the other people you’ve represented and the ones that settled. I mean, you have Bill O’Reilly responding yesterday—I don’t know if it was before or after he met with the pope—saying that the accusations were unfounded.
LISA BLOOM: Mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: But he, personally, and Fox News have settled—what was it? Five cases—
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —for over $13 million—
LISA BLOOM: Right, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —of women who have accused him of sexual harassment.
LISA BLOOM: And listen, Fox News, which had every economic motivation to take his side, found, in fact, that the allegations were well-founded. They looked at our evidence. They talked to our witnesses. I was very actively, behind the scenes, working with them on the investigation. I was on the phone with them when they interviewed some of our witnesses. The witnesses came through and said, “Yes, Wendy told me the next day, in 2013, that she had had dinner with Bill O’Reilly. He had offered her a job. When she refused to go back to his hotel room with him, he said, 'You know, you're on your own. You’re not getting that job.’ He became very cold and mean to her.”
And ultimately, these cases, like all of the sexual harassment cases I’ve been doing for 30 years, are about women’s equality in the workplace. It’s about our right to be treated with respect and to have our careers. You know, most of us can withstand a comment or two that we don’t like. But when our jobs are threatened because we don’t sleep with the boss, that’s at a whole other level. And that’s been going on, according to multiple women, with Bill O’Reilly and others at Fox News for a very long time. And I was very angry about that. I was very motivated. I knew the first accuser in 2004 and how Bill O’Reilly treated her, bringing his lawyers out to sue her, trashing her publicly through the different media outlets that they owned. You know, enough is enough. It was time to do something. And I’m glad I could be part of it.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to read Bill O’Reilly’s statement yesterday. He wrote, quote, “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”
LISA BLOOM: Can I just say something about that? You know, Sean Hannity, we never hear any complaints about him as a sexual harasser. Tucker Carlson, Matt Lauer—I mean, there are many prominent, wealthy men in the media who have zero complaints for sexual harassment. It’s only Bill O’Reilly, over and over and over again, by women, several of whom have had tapes, reportedly, of him calling and being very sexually explicit on the phone, propositioning them, telling them what he wanted to do with them sexually. It has nothing to do with him being in the public eye. It’s about his conduct and his behavior. He doesn’t get it. I don’t expect he will ever get it. I don’t expect an apology. But I’m glad he’s out of a job.
AMY GOODMAN: And then you also have the racial discrimination charges against him.
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain those.
LISA BLOOM: Yes. That’s very important. That’s my African-American client. She lives in North Carolina. She’s going to be talking publicly today for the first time, later on in the day. And she alleges that in 2008 she was a temp for six months at Fox News, working for another individual there, who she said was a great boss. But Bill O’Reilly, she says, would come by her workstation when no one else was around. He would leer at her cleavage in a very noticeable way. He would say, “Mm-hmm, looking good, girl.” And he had a nickname for her: “Hot Chocolate,” which she said was—she found that to be plantational. She found that to be very offensive. And she was scared. And that’s something I want people to understand, is the fear, when you have somebody as powerful and wealthy as Bill O’Reilly coming after a temp, you know, who’s just working day to day, you know, just to make a paycheck to survive. She just kept her head down. She was frozen, as she describes it. She didn’t say a word to him. She just really wanted to keep her job.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this goes higher than Bill O’Reilly, though he was the Fox News star. In a recent interview with The New York Times, President Trump talked about Bill O’Reilly, saying, quote, “I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person. … I think he shouldn’t have settled. Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
LISA BLOOM: So, a couple of things about that. Notice that he doesn’t say, “I don’t think O’Reilly did it.” He says, “I don’t think he did anything wrong.” And I think Trump is being very honest there. He does not think that sexual harassment is wrong. And as for settlements, I represented four of the women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct during the campaign, and I can tell you that he settled a sexual harassment case with my client, Jill Harth, back in the 1990s. So, you know, we know this is a man who will just say anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, tell us about that case.
LISA BLOOM: Jill Harth worked on a beauty pageant in the early 1990s. And she alleged, in a federal lawsuit that she had filed back then, that he took her into Ivanka’s room—Ivanka was a little girl at the time, she wasn’t home—pushed her up against the wall, put his hands up her skirt, groped her, grabbed her, made a lot of sexually explicit comments to her, some of which were witnessed by her then-husband. They’ve since divorced, but her husband supports her to this day. He remembers what he heard and what he saw. And Jill Harth was very brave to speak out last year. She was the first accuser to come out, and I stood with her.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to ask you—you mentioned earlier the question of financial incentives—
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: —that Fox News had, both for retaining him and for sacking him. According to some estimates, Fox News lost $446 million when all these advertisers pulled out. But New York magazine has suggested that there’s another reason that he was taken out: 21st Century Fox’s planned takeover of the European pay-TV company Sky TV. The deal is said to be worth $14 billion.
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And British media regulator Ofcom is set to judge whether the Murdochs are, quote, “fit and proper” to own such a big company.
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So could you talk about that and how these—
LISA BLOOM: And I sent a letter to Ofcom. So, I told you that—you know, I try to think holistically and globally and not just very narrowly. And some U.K. activists, who are trying to block that very deal that you just mentioned, reached out to me a couple of weeks ago and said, “Will you help us? We don’t want Fox News to come here. We want Ofcom, the regulator, to know about what’s going on in the U.S.” because it wasn’t being widely reported there. So I took the time to send a very detailed letter to Ofcom, letting them know about the rampant toxic culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against women at Fox News, at 21st Century Fox. I sent that letter, and I’ve connected with the activists. And they delivered the letter personally to Ofcom. And I felt that was another pressure point that we could put on to get Bill O’Reilly fired, and also, on a larger point, to get them to clean up this toxic culture and actually respect the concept that we women have rights in the U.S. We have the right to be treated as equals in the workplace. And those laws should be enforced everywhere, including at Fox News.
AMY GOODMAN: Back to Donald Trump, because this is extremely significant. Two men supported him enormously—a whole network. I mean, Roger Ailes, even after he was forced out—what? Now 20 women have accused Roger Ailes. He was quietly, until there was a lot of consternation expressed, advising candidate Donald Trump. And then you have Bill O’Reilly. And you have the Donald Trump scandal. I want to go to just the clip from Access Hollywood—this was years ago—and how significant this is, in fact, describing the MO that he attacked your client with, right?
LISA BLOOM: Exactly, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Reaching under her skirt.
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: This is, well, now the president of the United States, Donald Trump, caught on tape.
BILLY BUSH: It’s her.
DONALD TRUMP: Yeah, that’s her, with the gold. I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
BILLY BUSH: Whatever you want.
DONALD TRUMP: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
AMY GOODMAN: So, he’s talking to Billy Bush, who was at Access Hollywood. Ultimately, he was fired by NBC, Billy Bush.
LISA BLOOM: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And Donald Trump became president. But the significance of this? You say you’ve represented a number of women who accused Donald Trump.
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: He said he would sue them after the election. What’s happened?
LISA BLOOM: Well, we knew that was another lie. I knew it at the time. I said on Twitter, if he sues any of them, I’ll represent them for free, and I will subpoena all of his records and those of all of his enablers, and we will get the tapes, that we have heard rumors about these tapes from The Apprentice, where he may have said the N-word. He knew that we would get a tough response from us. We would crowdfund the defense costs. Thousands and thousands of people said, “I will help you.” I mean, it’s just another one of Trump’s lies.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the question is where this all goes from there. I was looking at Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter’s newsletter, who says, “Dylan Byers emails: Are Fox’s problems over? Not necessarily. With Ailes and O’Reilly out, attention is likely to turn to Bill Shine, the Fox News co-president and longtime right-hand man to Ailes. Shine, a key figure at Fox, has been accused by at least two of Ailes’ accusers of being intimately involved with efforts to protect the former [Fox] News chief. Moreover, as co-president, he had a direct role in re-upping O’Reilly’s contract earlier this year despite the company’s knowledge of the previous accusations.” I mean, knowledge—they were paying out. So, the question about who else is in there, and is that U.S.—is the New York state investigation—
LISA BLOOM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —continuing around where this money, millions of dollars that’s going to pay off settlements—do the shareholders know?
LISA BLOOM: Right. So, Bill Shine has been accused more than twice of being Roger Ailes’ lieutenant and part of the cover-up and part of the conspiracy, and driving women out and paying them hush money and doing nothing to address the culture of sexual harassment. And, of course, all of the enablers have to go, if they’re really going to clean house. You know, what true justice would be would—in my view, would be actually to bring back all of the women who lost their jobs merely for complaining about sexual harassment. Of course, that’s never going to happen.
I called for another investigation, because, yes, the investigation into the funds and how they’re being paid and how they’re being earmarked, I mean, that’s somewhat interesting, I guess, to the shareholders. I don’t really care about 21st Century shareholders. I care about the women and the people who are working there. And I thought to myself, “There has to be an agency to come in and do a real investigation. What agency might that be?” I called upon the State Division of Human Rights in New York, which is entrusted, by law, to protect the human rights of all of the workers here in New York. And I wrote them a lengthy letter detailing all of the publicly available information, and asked them to do their own investigation. I gave them the code section that empowers them to do that. So far, they haven’t taken me up on it, but I’m doing a social media campaign to get them to go in there, do the independent investigation.
You know, this is a problem hiding in plain sight. Obviously, the laws are not enough to—this is a very wealthy company. They just pay women off over and over again, but they don’t do anything to change the culture. Women’s rights are human rights, just like Hillary Clinton said long ago. And I think the State Division of Human Rights should get in there and investigate.
AMY GOODMAN: Are there going to be a lot more suits against O’Reilly, even if he’s out, and Fox, for hosting him, as he hosted?
LISA BLOOM: Well, my phone has been ringing off the hook, even though phones aren’t on hooks anymore. And we have talked to a lot of women, and we’re very happy to talk to them. And I think, yes, there will probably be many more suits.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you, Lisa Bloom, for being with us, civil rights attorney—
LISA BLOOM: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: —at The Bloom Firm, representing three women who have accused Bill O’Reilly of unwanted sexual advances. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Elvis Presley singing “He Touched Me.” Why that song? Well, 77 advertisers publicly announced they would no longer air commercials during O’Reilly’s show. The number of ads on the show dramatically declined, and large national brands were replaced with ads for—this is according to ThinkProgress—Elvis gospel albums like He Touched Me and catheters. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.