The sponsor of the “No Spin Zone” on Fox News is trying to spin his way out of a serious sex scandal. Bill O’Reilly denies sexually harassing a female producer but has not specifically denied the sick and perverted comments attributed to him. That’s because the producer apparently has tapes of the comments.
Negotiations had been underway to settle the matter, but they broke down. Apparently, the price of the proposed financial settlement was too high for O’Reilly and Fox News. So O’Reilly is now charging that he was the victim?that he was being extorted and blackmailed. O’Reilly seems to be taking a lesson from the Clinton playbook?go after the accuser, hire a good lawyer, and go on the offensive. Clinton managed to survive, but will O’Reilly?
When Arnold Schwarzenegger was accused of sexually harassing women, O’Reilly came to his defense. “First,” O’Reilly said, “the actor has never been charged with a crime or sued in civil court. So his record is clean. There’s no Paula Jones here, no Monica Lewinsky, at least not yet.” Eventually, a Hollywood stuntwoman came forward to claim that she was sexually harassed by the former bodybuilder and actor. In O’Reilly’s case, the record is not clean, to use O’Reilly’s phrase, because a woman has stepped forward and filed suit. Her name is Andrea Mackris, the producer that Fox News is now trying to fire. Her suit includes lengthy quotes from O’Reilly on sexual matters.
Jimmy Breslin of Newsday took a look at O’Reilly’s new book for kids, while also noting several references to sex. But they are at sharp variance with the comments reported in the Mackris suit. These are some quotes from O’Reilly’s book: “When you are interested in someone only on the basis of physique, you’re dehumanizing him or her, seeing that person only as an attractive object. If you are doing that, remember, good sex occurs between two human beings, not between two objects … Sex is best when you combine sensible behavior with sincere affection … And if you exploit a girl, it will come back to get you.”
Well, it has come back to haunt O’Reilly. And Breslin says, in a major understatement, that it’s going to be “tough” for O’Reilly to sell that book for kids now that he’s been charged with sexual harassment. It’s also going to be tough for O’Reilly to survive on the air as a fighter for moral values. But like CBS going through the motions of an investigation of Dan Rather and company, Fox News and O’Reilly seem to be buying time while they decide what to do. For his part, O’Reilly refuses any detailed comments, saying the matter is in the courts.
Susan Antilla, the author of a book about sexual harassment, predicts O’Reilly will survive. “If he is making money for Fox, he’ll stay at Fox,” Antilla told Jon Friedman of CBSMarketwatch. But this may depend on whether the Fox News audience, which is mostly conservative, will continue to watch him. Immediately after the scandal broke, his ratings were up. People were probably curious about how he would look or respond. But if he starts talking again about the moral and cultural collapse of society, many viewers may either turn him off or laugh hysterically.