$32 MILLION SETTLEMENT

Amid the national outrage over sexual harassment of women in the workplace, a New York Times report claims FOX News renewed Bill O’Reilly’s $100-million dollar contract even though they knew the anchor had settled yet another sexual harassment case for the sum of $32 million dollars.  Now, it’s a question of ethics and next steps for the cable news giant.  Famed legal scholar, Alan Dershowitz, will be here with his insight.

Aired on October 23, 2017. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

TONIGHT, A $32 MILLION SETTLEMENT.

IN THE WAKE OF HARVEY WEINSTEIN, AND THE SEX SCANDAL THAT BROUGHT DOWN ROGER AILES, FORMER CEO OF FOX NEWS AND ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MEN IN THE MEDIA, NEW AND SHOCKING ALLEGATIONS BY THE 'NEW YORK TIMES' CLAIMING THAT FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR BILL O'REILLY, ALREADY SADDLED WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS AND SETTLEMENTS WAS HANDED A LUCRATIVE NEW CONTRACT THIS YEAR DESPITE THE NETWORK'S KNOWLEDGE THAT HE HAD SETTLED A MASSIVE SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASE.

THAT'S THE PRICE TAG, $32 MILLION PAID TO LIS WIEHL ACCORDING TO THE 'TIMES.'

FORMER ANALYST.

O'REILLY FIRED ONLY AFTER NEW CONTRACT WAS IN PLACE AND OTHER ALLEGATIONS FROM OTHER WOMEN AROSE.

BILL O'REILLY DENIED THE ACCUSATIONS AND CALLED THE 'TIMES' PIECE A MALICIOUS SMEAR CAMPAIGN.

NOTHING FROM LIS WIEHL YET.

AND 20th CENTURY FOX AACKNOWLEDGED THEY WERE AWARE OF THE SETTLEMENT BUT NOT MASSIVE AMOUNT INVOLVED.

I'M PLEASED TO BE JOINED BY ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR OF LAW AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY.

FIRST WANT TO GET YOUR TAKE ON THE 'TIMES' STORY ABOUT THE FOX CONTRACT AND $32 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH BILL O'REILLY.

THIS REVELATION POSES SOME SERIOUS PROBLEMS.

OBVIOUSLY FOX CORPORATION, THERE ARE TWO BASES FOR SUING A CORPORATION IN SITUATIONS LIKE THIS.

ONE IS STOCKHOLDERS INSTITUTE IN WHICH OWNERS OF THE COMPANY CLAIM THAT MANAGEMENT HASN'T BEEN SERVING THE COMPANY BY FAILING TO TAKE STEPS TO AVOID THIS PROBLEM, A PROBLEM THAT'S ENDED UP VERY COSTLY TO THE COMPANY.

COMPANY'S RESPONSE IS GOING TO BE LOOK WE HAD A CASH COW, SOMEBODY BRINGS IN TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OR MORE AND HAD TO STAY WITH HIM AS LONG AS POSSIBLE AND DID THE RIGHT THING FOR THE COMPANY.

WHETHER THAT WILL SUCCEED OR NOT IS UNCLEAR IN TODAY'S ENVIRONMENT.

SECOND VULNERABILITY THEY HAVE IS TO OTHER PEOPLE WHO MAY HAVE BEEN HARASSED.

THERE'S A CONCEPT CALLED RERESPOND YAT SUPERIOR, YOUR BOSS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR CONDUCT AND FOX MAY BE RESPONSIBLE FOR SOME OF THE CONDUCT UNDERTAKEN BY O'REILLY.

THE TWO 'TIMES' REPORTERS RECENTLY DID A PODCAST FOR THE 'TIMES,' 'THE DAILY PODCAST' AND FOX WAS LOOKING AT THIS AS PERSONAL ISSUE NOT BUSINESS ONE.

AND FURTHER COMPLICATED BY THE FACT THIS PARTICULAR ACCUSER ALSO WORKED AS PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR MR. O'REILLY.

THERE WAS A LOT OF GRAY AREA FOX SEEMS TO BE SAYING.

GRAY AREAS COMMONLY APPLY IN THESE KINDS OF SITUATIONS BUT ATMOSPHERICS ALSO HAVE AN IMPACT.

I THINK GRAYS WILL BE RESOLVED AGAINST THE COMPANY UNDER TODAY'S VIEW OF THESE MATTERS.

I DON'T THINK THEY WILL PREVAIL ON THE ISSUE THIS WAS PERSONAL MATTER.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL MERGE WHEN YOU HAVE A PERSONALITY LIKE O'REILLY, WHO IS A VERY BIG PERSONALITY AND LIVES AND DIES BY HIS PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES, ON AND OFF THE AIR.

I DON'T THINK THAT ARGUMENT WILL WORK.

ARGUMENT THAT SHE WAS HIS ATTORNEY HAS A GREATER POTENTIAL TO THE EXTENT THAT THEY HAD A PERSONAL LAWYER/CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NOT A RELATIONSHIP NECESSARILY THROUGH THE COMPANY.

BUT WE HAVE TO FIND OUT MORE OF THE FACTS ABOUT THAT.

I SUSPECT IT WILL BE COMPLEX.

DOES IT MATTER AT ALL THAT MR. O'REILLY HAS COME OUT AND ACCUSED THE 'TIMES' REPORTERS OF TWO THINGS, ONE, BEING PART OF A LARGER LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY TO DESTROY HIM AND TWO, REPORTING FIGURES THAT ARE INCORRECT.

DECLINED TO BE SPECIFIC ABOUT WHICH FIGURES ARE INCORRECT BUT THAT SEEMS TO BE PART OF THE DEFENSE.

FIGURES ARE INCORRECT AND THIS IS PART OF A LARGER CONSPIRACY TO DESTROY ME.

ONE THING YOU CAN TAKE TO THE BANK, O'REILLY WILL NOT BRING A LAWSUIT.

THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT NO DECENT LAWYER WOULD EVER ADVISE HIM AT THIS POINT TO UNDERGO A DEPOSITION ABOUT THE EXTENT OF THE CONDUCT HE ENGAGED IN.

I THINK NOBODY HAS TO WORRY ABOUT BEING SUED BY O'REILLY.

IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION, HE'S ENTITLED TO EXPRESS HIS VIEWS AND DEFEND HIMSELF.

I COMMEND HIM FOR CORRECTING THE RECORD IF IT'S FALSE.

HE HAS A SUPERB LAWYER AND PUBLIC RELATIONS PERSON WORKING WITH HIM.

THEY WILL FIGURE OUT HOW TO HANDLE IT IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION.

AS FAR AS THE COURT OF LAW IS CONCERNED, THIS CASE IS OVER AS FAR AS O'REILLY IS CONCERNED.

HE CAN AND WILL NOT BRING A LAWSUIT.

WHETHER THERE ARE SUITS AGAINST THE PARENT CORPORATION REMAINS TO BE SEEN.

THAT WILL BE A DIFFICULT ISSUE FOR FOX.

COULD HAVE COMPLICATED LAWSUITS BROUGHT AGAINST THEM.

SPEAKING OF, GRETCHEN CARLSON HAS COME FORWARD AND SUGGESTED FACT THAT THE $32 MILLION LAWSUIT, IN TOTALITY, OVER $40 MILLION PAID REALLY PUTS A BAD LIGHT ON FOX NEWS CORPORATION.

NOT SO MUCH.

THEY STILL WERE MAKING MONEY.

JOB OF A CORPORATION PRIMARILY IS TO MAKE MONEY FOR ITS STOCKHOLDERS.

THEY WILL ARGUE THAT ON BALANCE KEEPING HIM MADE MORE MONEY THAN LETTING HIM GO.

ARGUMENT ON THE OTHER SIDE SAID YOU HAD TO LET HIM GO ANYWAY AND SHOULD HAVE DONE IT SERENE.

THESE ISSUES COURTS WILL RESOLVE.

NO WAY OF PREDICTING THE OUTCOME OF THE STOCKHOLDERS SUIT ARGUING WE KEPT MOST IMPORTANT PERSON ON THE AIR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.

WHAT ABOUT THE CIVIL SUITS THAT MIGHT BE COMING, IF THE COMPANY TAKES THE TACK IT WAS MORE PROFITABLE TO KEEP HIM ON AIR AND SIGN CONTRACT WITH HIM, EVEN THOUGH COSTING US MONEY THROUGH THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUITS WE WERE SETTLING.

FIRST OF ALL, ARGUMENT WILL BE MANY OF THE LAWSUITS WERE PAID OUT OF HIS PERSONAL FUNDS.

AND ONES PAID BY CORPORATION THEY'LL DO BENEFIT ANALYSIS AND SAY IT WAS WORTH AVOIDING LITIGATION, THE PUBLICITY AND THEY THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE KEPT SECRET.

ONE THING THAT MAY GENERATE LAWSUITS, LOT OF THESE SETTLEMENTS MAY HAVE CONFIDENTIALITY CLAUSES AND SOMEBODY COULD BE LOOKING INTO WHO BROKE THEM.

WHEN YOU PAY A LOT OF MONEY, IT'S NOT CALLED HUSH MONEY FOR NOTHING.

THAT IS TRUE.

BACK TO THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION.

'THE DAILY PODCAST' FROM THE 'NEW YORK TIMES,' WE HEARD BILL O'REILLY EXPRESSING CONCERN FOR HIMSELF AS THE VICTIM AS HE VIEWS THE SITUATION BUT ALSO HIS CHILDREN.

WONDERING IF BY PUSHING THIS NARRATIVE DOES THAT HELP MR. O'REILLY IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION WHERE HE NEEDS SUPPORT TO REBUILD HIS CAREER?

NO IT HURTS HIS ARGUMENT.

ANSWER IS OBVIOUS, YOU ARE THE ONE WHO HURT THE CHILDREN.

AND TAPE RECORDINGS, SECRET ONE NO ONE HAS HEARD BUT DESCRIPTIONS OF IT.

TAPE RECORDING WHERE HE'S ON THE PHONE WITH ONE OF THE WOMEN ENGAGED WITH INAPPROPRIATE TALK.

SAID TO EXIST, PEOPLE HAVE HEARD IT.

WE NEVER HAVE.

IF HE EVER WERE TO BRING A LAWSUIT, ALMOST CERTAINLY THAT TAPE WOULD HAVE TO BE RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC AND DESTROY EVEN FURTHER HIS CREDIBILITY AND CAREER.

I'M NOT SURE HE'S BEING WISE BY GOING ON THE AIR AND POINTING TO HIS CHILDREN.

I THINK THE RESPONSE IS GOING TO BE, IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, YOU DON'T ENGAGE IN THIS KIND OF CONDUCT.

MR. DERSHOWITZ, THANKS FOR JOINING US.

FINAL QUESTION.

IF YOU WERE REPRESENTING MR. O'REILLY IN CIVIL OR ANY OTHER CASE, WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE?

AT THIS POINT ADVISE HIM TO DISAPPEAR FROM PUBLIC VIEW, NOT TO MAKE ANY FURTHER COMMENTS AND LET THE STORY DIE A NATURAL DEATH.

THAT IS ALL INSIGHTFUL.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON THE PROGRAM.

APPRECIATE YOUR INSIGHT INTO THE SITUATION.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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