Last weekend, the deluge of sexual harassment stories in media and entertainment, and especially at Fox News, reached a new low when it was reported that Fox News had renewed its contract with Bill O’Reilly a month after the former host apparently reached a $32 million settlement with accuser Lis Wiehl. The news was stunning to many people and perhaps to no one more than 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, according to Variety.
Speaking at a Wednesday New York conference, Murdoch admitted that the parent company knew O’Reilly had reached a settlement with Wiehl when it renewed his contract, but he claimed to have not been aware that it was for such a large figure. “It was news to me when we saw that number the other day,” Murdoch said. He then defended how his network handled recent high-profile sexual harassment cases.
“It’s easy to look from the outside and say, ‘Didn’t you know that?'” he said. “I think the issue becomes, ‘how do you react to those things’ once they are brought to light.” Pointing to how O’Reilly as well as former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes were fired for sexual harassment, Murdoch said, “You investigate things thoroughly, you make what you think is the best decision.”
Murdoch added that he hopes firing harassers like O’Reilly and Ailes “sends a strong signal to employees and [the industry] that there are behaviors that are not tolerable.”
After the original reporting of O’Reilly’s contract being renewed after the settlement agreement, 21st Century Fox defended its decision by saying the terms of the settlement were kept from the company, and the new contract included provisions that allowed for the network to terminate its deal with O’Reilly if new allegations were made or past incidents were discovered.