In an appearance on Fox News, Hollywood Reporter editor Matthew Belloni called out the network for renewing a contract with disgraced host Bill O'Reilly even though executives were aware he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit that was reportedly worth $32 million.
The New York Times first reported this week that "six months after Fox News ousted its chairman amid a sexual harassment scandal, the network’s top-rated host at the time, Bill O’Reilly, struck a $32 million agreement with a longtime network analyst to settle new sexual harassment allegations."
"It was at least the sixth agreement — and by far the largest — made by either Mr. O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against him," the paper added. "Despite that record, 21st Century Fox began contract negotiations with Mr. O’Reilly, and in February granted him a four-year extension that paid $25 million a year."
The bombshell report was too much for Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz to ignore during his Sunday program.
"While Bill O'Reilly is calling the allegations crap, it does not look good," Kurtz noted.
Belloni agreed: "It does not look good for O'Reilly because the first question you have is, if these allegations are crap, why spend $32 million to settle them."
"And the second question," he continued, "is for Fox News. Even if you really wanted to re-sign Bill O'Reilly -- Megyn Kelly had left, Roger Ailes had left -- why did you not enquire as to the nature of this settlement? And more specifically, the amount of the settlement. Did you not have a -- if not a legal -- a moral duty to look into that? I mean, the culture and some of the claims that have been made against Fox News?"
"It looks like there was an effort to re-sign O'Reilly, look the other way or willfully don't enquire about the nature of this settlement," Belloni charged. "It just seems like the effort was, 'Look the other way and hopefully this will work out.'"
Belloni said that he did not buy Fox's argument that the sexual harassment lawsuit was a private matter between O'Reilly and Lis Wiehl, a former pundit who worked at the network for 15 years.
"The allegations concern behavior that allegedly occurred at Fox News and between a Fox News person and Bill O'Reilly," Belloni observed. "Why would you not just enquire about that?"
Kurtz acknowledged that the report was "embarrassing" and "disappointing" for Fox, but he concluded by trying to put a positive spin on the story.
"I hope it doesn't impede the progress the company has been trying to make, which in the end, the company did fire its biggest money makers," Kurtz said.