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Meet the Lawyer Who Is Going After Bill O'Reilly & Donald Trump for Sexual Harassment

StoryApril 06, 2017
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President Donald Trump is lending his support to Bill O’Reilly, as the number of advertisers boycotting the Fox News host’s program has increased to at least 52, following revelations that he and the network Fox News paid out $13 million to settle lawsuits by five women who accuse O’Reilly of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior. Other women have made similar accusations. In an Oval Office interview with The New York Times Wednesday, Trump said, "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." We speak to attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents Dr. Wendy Walsh, one of the women who has publicly accused Bill O’Reilly of unwanted sexual advances. She also represented Jill Harth, a Florida business associate of Trump who sued him for sexual harassment after he allegedly groped her at a business dinner and later attempted to sexually assault her in the empty bedroom of his daughter Ivanka.


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Donald Trump is lending his support to Bill O’Reilly, as the number of advertisers boycotting the Fox News host’s program has increased to at least 52, following revelations that Fox News paid out $13 million to settle lawsuits by five women who accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior. Other women have made similar accusations. In an Oval Office interview with The New York Times Wednesday, Trump said, 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."

Trump’s support for O’Reilly came just days after he issued a presidential statement proclaiming April to be National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In response, NARAL communications director Kaylie Hanson Long tweeted, quote, "A man who bragged about committing sexual assault and grabbing women by the pu$$y is defending Bill O’Reilly. Enough said." Meanwhile, the National Organization for Women is calling for O’Reilly to be fired, and demanding an independent investigation into the, quote, "culture of sexual harassment" at Fox News.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times recently reported Fox News and Bill O’Reilly have, combined, paid five women up to $13 million to settle sexual harassment claims. The women are Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Gomez Diamond, Laurie Dhue and Juliet Huddy. They’ve accused O’Reilly of making unwanted sexual comments, kissing or touching them without their consent, and retaliating against them professionally when they rejected his advances.

And on Monday, television commentator Dr. Wendy Walsh came forward to accuse Fox News star Bill O’Reilly of sexually harassing her and then retaliating against her professionally when she rejected him. This is Dr. Walsh 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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was television commentator Dr. Wendy Walsh. O’Reilly has denied all the claims against him. On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported Fox News recently renewed O’Reilly’s contract. According to Nielsen, The O’Reilly Factor is Fox News’s most watched program and just finished its highest-rated first quarter in its history, averaging 4 million viewers.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Los Angeles, where we’re joined by Lisa Bloom, civil rights attorney at The Bloom Firm. She represents Dr. Wendy Walsh, one of the women who publicly accused Bill O’Reilly of unwanted sexual advances.

Lisa Bloom, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you start off by responding to what Donald Trump told The New York Times as he sat in the Oval Office as president of United States. He said about Bill O’Reilly, "I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong." Lisa Bloom?

LISA BLOOM: I think you’ve emphasized the important part of that statement. "I don’t think he did anything wrong." Donald Trump did not say, "I don’t think he did it." He does not think that sexual harassment is wrong. I think that’s a true statement coming from Donald Trump, a man who has bragged about sexual assault, who has been accused by over a dozen women publicly of sexual misconduct. I represented four women during the campaign who made those claims. And he’s—listen, Donald Trump is choosing to stick with his crony buddy, Bill O’Reilly, rather than half the population of America—women—who are really crying out for justice in sexual harassment cases.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Lisa Bloom, can you tell us about your client, Dr. Wendy Walsh, and what she says exactly happened to her with Bill O’Reilly?

LISA BLOOM: She was recruited to be a regular guest on his show. They created a segment around her. She’s a psychologist and a relationship expert, so the segment was called "Are We Crazy?" And they talked about issues in the news. After about three weeks of, you know, really an on-air audition for the job, she got an email from Mr. O’Reilly’s executive assistant inviting her to dinner with him. She was very excited, because she thought, "Here’s the perfect chance to talk about getting that on-air paid position."

They had dinner at a restaurant at the Bel-Air Hotel here in Los Angeles. She says that during the dinner, he said, "You’re fantastic." He also told her she was very beautiful, and "We’d love to have you be a paid contributor." She said, "Great!" She thought the dinner was going very well.

After the dinner, he invited her back to his room, she says. She rebuffed him. He then immediately became very cold and angry. And he said, "You can forget about all the career advice I gave you. You’re on your own now." She was on a few times after that, from Los Angeles. He was from New York. But she was being weaned off the show, and ultimately she was taken off the show entirely. Needless to say, she never got the job.

AMY GOODMAN: She didn’t sue, though?

LISA BLOOM: She did not sue. This was back in 2013. Instead, she continued to persist and to try to get the job. And she does what a lot of working women do, which is, she thought, "I’ll behave professionally. I’ll be nonthreatening. I’ll be friendly. This will blow over, and he’ll come back around to giving me the job." So, she sent him some friendly emails now and then, always very professional, you know, thanking him for helping her getting her book out there, and saying she really wanted to get that segment back up again. But it never happened.

And I also want to tell you that Fox News has said, "Nobody’s ever called our hotline about the sexual harassment complaints against Bill O’Reilly." So, yesterday, Wendy Walsh and I called the hotline. She called in her complaint. We made a video of it. It’s posted on my Twitter, @LisaBloom. And we expect Fox—

AMY GOODMAN: Let us play that clip.

LISA BLOOM: —to now do what they’re legally required to do—

AMY GOODMAN: Let us—let us play—

LISA BLOOM: —which is a prompt, thorough investigation of her complaint.

AMY GOODMAN: Let us play that clip, which 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.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there you have that clip, Lisa Bloom, that you posted. Also, Alisyn Camerota, this morning, on CNN, who who worked at Fox for years, said she never heard of this hotline. She didn’t even know there was a hotline to call.

LISA BLOOM: Yes. This is not my first case of sexual harassment against Fox News. They have raised this in previous cases. I don’t know of anyone who really was aware of this hotline. Listen, the bottom line is, no employee is required to call a hotline. You don’t even know who’s going to be on the other end of it, right? The law does not require it. But since they made such an issue out of it, we decided to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let us ask you about the people that you represent, not in the case of Bill O’Reilly, but—now that Donald Trump has jumped into the story by saying that his friend Bill O’Reilly did nothing wrong—you represented women against Donald Trump, who alleged he sexually harassed them.

LISA BLOOM: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Like, if you could tell us about Jill Harth. And then—

LISA BLOOM: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —a much less well-known case, a 13-year-old who accuses Donald Trump of assault. Tell us those stories.

LISA BLOOM: So, yes, Jill Harth, I was very proud to represent. She was the first woman to come out, in early 2016, with her story of alleged sexual harassment against Donald Trump. She had filed a lawsuit against him in the 1990s, so it was out there for anybody to see. Although he says Bill O’Reilly should not have settled the case—cases, in fact, Donald Trump settled Jill Harth’s case back in the 1990s three weeks after she filed it. So, pretty quickly. And her allegations have never changed, that he grabbed her, that groped her on a number of occasions. She was really shocked and offended. At one point at Mar-a-Lago, she says, he took her into Ivanka’s bedroom, when Ivanka was a little girl, and pushed her up against the wall, put his hands up her skirt. I mean, it’s a really horrifying story. And so, Jill Harth spoke out about it throughout the campaign.

With regard to the woman who alleges that she was a 13-year-old girl, she decided, ultimately, that she did not want to come forward. She had filed a lawsuit, but then she decided she just couldn’t take the heat, frankly, and the lawsuit was withdrawn and dismissed. And she does not want to speak publicly about her allegations.

AMY GOODMAN: The 13-year-old, the person who was 13—

LISA BLOOM: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —when she accused Donald Trump of rape. You know, Donald Trump said that he would sue the women who alleged he sexually assaulted them, after the election.

LISA BLOOM: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Has he sued any of them?

LISA BLOOM: Right. Well, we all knew that was a lie at the time, just like so many of the things that come out of his mouth. And, of course, he has not sued. And I said, "Bring it on." I represented four of the women. If you want to sue any of them—I mean, listen, nobody wants to get sued, especially by a man as powerful and wealthy as Donald Trump. But I said online that I would represent any of them. We would crowdfund defense costs. And I’m very happy to do it. I will stand by them, just like I told Wendy Walsh, "I will stand by you if you come forward with your claims."

I think it’s important for women to have a strong woman stand with them when they do this kind of thing. It’s very scary to do this on your own. So, anybody who does have a sexual harassment claim against a powerful man, I encourage them to get a strong feminist attorney to stand by them. It’s a completely different experience. You know, my clients feel very empowered afterwards, after they walk through the fire. I think Wendy feels pretty good about what she’s doing right now. This can be done. I think it has to be done, if we’re ever going to change the world for our daughters and move the ball forward. There’s still too much sexual harassment, not just by famous men, but in the workplaces in general. And it’s never going to change if we don’t oppose it and speak out and bring lawsuits where that’s necessary.

AMY GOODMAN: Can President Trump be sued as president?

LISA BLOOM: Absolutely. You know, we all remember the case of Paula Jones against Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. And the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that no one in America is above the law, and that includes the president. And there is a defamation case against Donald Trump brought by one of his accusers, Summer Zervos, because he called her a liar after she came out with her claims. Donald Trump is now saying that that case, you know, shouldn’t go forward, he has immunity. That’s fake law. The case is going to go forward. And, you know, I wish Summer Zervos the best.

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