WASHINGTON -- October 25 -- Andrea Mackris, an associate producer for Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against host Bill O'Reilly on October 13. O'Reilly has countersued Mackris and her attorney for extortion, claiming that they demanded $60 million to settle the case out of court-- a claim Mackris's attorney rejects. As some news accounts have pointed out, O'Reilly's lawyers are not denying that the sexually explicit phone calls and conversations O'Reilly is alleged to have initiated actually happened; instead, they are arguing that such behavior does not constitute harassment (New York Times, 10/14/04).
According to some news reports, an out-of-court settlement is still a possibility; if that does not happen, O'Reilly is of course entitled to his day in court. But over the years, O'Reilly has expressed some very strong opinions about sexual harassment and the moral responsibilities of public officials. These comments should be taken into consideration as viewers and reporters consider the case, no matter what the outcome.
--On public officials, their private lives and moral judgment (7/16/01):
"There is a strong movement in America to remove any kind of value-based argument. We see this all the time.... Public officials have the right to lie about sex because it is no one's business what they do in private, even if sexual harassment suits are lodged against them, i.e., President Clinton, or even if a young girl disappears shortly after talking with a congressman she was intimate with. Hello, Gary Condit. Many Americans simply cannot or will not make judgments about behavior. And this is a tremendous change in our society. The danger here is that the absence of value-based judgments breaks down justice and discipline."
--On Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (8/7/01):
"I was screaming this, nobody else really drove the nail. But under the federal guidelines, as you know, if you have more power than a subordinate and you both work in the federal system, it's sexual harassment for you to have even a consensual affair with that person."
--When Ohio TV anchor Catherine Bosley resigned after photos of her participating in a wet t-shirt contest were posted on the internet, O'Reilly thought she should be let go (1/23/04):
"Let's be realistic. Politicians, news people, clergy all have images, and all depend on the trust of the public to succeed. So we have a young woman here who-- anchoring the news, and her pictures are all over the Internet..... So it intrudes on her ability to communicate the news, does it not?"
"The station has an obligation to put on people who are going to bolster their news image. This woman, in a community like that particularly, but in -- I think in any city in the USA, becomes a joke, and, therefore, the station becomes a joke, and you can't be a joke if you want to compete in the news area."
"Are you aware that in every newscaster's contract, there's a moral clause that says, if you embarrass the station publicly in any way, they can let you go.... Once you go public and do something like that, although it's not illegal, it embarrasses your employer because your employer operates on credibility."
-- Discussing an Elle magazine survey about sex in the workplace
"I have to explain to the audience that there is no sex allowed at Fox on the job. We can't have sex here at Fox. But MSNBC apparently have lots of sex over there, which is why we beat them in the ratings. Because as we're working to give you programs, they're all having sex."
When one guest-- a human resources expert-- expressed skepticism about how widespread workplace sex could be, O'Reilly responded:
"You know, I do know some people who do that. And here's why they do it. It's a sense of danger. And a lot of people like that danger element in sex. So they want to have sex and maybe they'll get caught. And that kind of heightens their-- whatever."
--On October 21, 2003, O'Reilly said the following:
"Put yourself in this position. You make an enemy. That person accuses you of some sex crime, maybe harassment. You're totally innocent, but the accusation is made public. Your life will never, ever be the same. Talking Points believes society must rethink how this sex stuff is handled and that those who do bogus charges should be punished. Raping a person's character is a crime, too. And evil people who do that should be held accountable."
O'Reilly then posed these questions to his guests:
"There's no real stats on how many sex charges, sex harassment charges, all of that, molestation, are bogus, is there?"
"This new sexual harassment can be used as a weapon, can it not?"
--On March 23, 2004, O'Reilly interviewed Linda Mills, author of the book "Insult to Injury: Rethinking Our Responses to Intimate Abuse." O'Reilly previewed the segment this way: "In a moment, a professor of social work says women may bear some responsibility for sexual harassment." During the interview, O'Reilly explained his take on the law this way:
"Look, I think that the sexual harassment thing is used as a club, as I said, by many women, all right. It's something they have against men, a threat to keep men at bay in a very competitive marketplace.... You know, there are women who manipulate themselves and use their sexuality to get ahead, all right. And then these women will turn around and file a sexual harassment.... But how do you prove it? It's very difficult to prove it."
O'Reilly continued: "Well, it's changed my life. I'll tell you, when I was a thug coming up, I mean I would say almost anything around women, and now I don't say anything, you know, that could be remotely taken-- you know, because, obviously, I'm a big target, and any kind of a thing like that stigmatizes you, whether you're guilty or not, doesn't it? So it's -- women -- that's a big power source for them, and I think some women use it ruthlessly."