Former Fox News star Megyn Kelly delivered a blistering rebuke to disgraced former Fox host Bill O’Reilly on Monday. She said that despite his claims that there were no complaints about his behavior, she had personally spoken with network heads about O’Reilly’s history of sexual harassment and his public treatment of women who step forward about workplace abuse.
O’Reilly was ousted in April after The New York Times reported that he had paid settlements to at least five women over sexual harassment allegations. This weekend, the Times reported on the existence of a sixth settlement, less than a year ago, for an eye-popping $32 million. Shortly after that settlement in January, Fox renewed O’Reilly for a new contract that amounted to a multimillion-dollar raise.
O’Reilly has denied the allegations. And he’s previously claimed that no one ever filed a complaint against him with Fox News’ human resources department.
On Monday, during her new daytime slot at NBC’s Today show, Kelly said it could conceivably be true that nobody filed a formal complaint with HR — “Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report,” she said.
“However, O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false. I know because I complained,” she said.
In 2016, a series of women, including former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, came forward to publicly describe their sexual harassment allegations against Fox News founder Roger Ailes. This was months before the public knew of O’Reilly’s settlements.
That November, Kelly published a memoir in which she, too, addressed Ailes’ predatory behavior, describing his inappropriate sexual remarks and an attempted sexual assault.
She says at the time, she was frustrated to see O’Reilly lash out at the women who were speaking up. In a TV interview, O’Reilly said the accusers were making Fox News “look bad.”
Kelly says she emailed the co-presidents of Fox News to say O’Reilly’s “own history of harassment of women, which has, as you both know, resulted in payouts to more than one woman” may have “blinded him” to the proper way to respond to Ailes’ scandal. The company needed to apologize to women, not shame them, she said.
She says the network heads assured her O’Reilly would be “dealt with” — but he continued. After her email, O’Reilly went on a riff on his show, saying that “aggrieved” women “owe” their employers “allegiance” and should not make public accusations of sexual harassment.
In fact, instead of any sort of apology, he urged women who “don’t like what’s happening” to quit their jobs instead of speaking up.
Kelly, once a rising star at Fox News, left the network in January, a few months after revealing her allegations against Ailes. (Her transition to her new role as morning show host has been difficult, NPR’s David Folkenflik wrote last month.)
The loss of Kelly was one reason Fox was so determined to hold on to O’Reilly when his contract was up for renewal, the Times suggests. But O’Reilly’s value diminished as the sexual harassment settlements became public knowledge. He was ousted in April.
On her own show, Kelly expressed personal frustration with the way O’Reilly used his powerful position to criticize women for sharing their experiences of harassment and assault.
“This is not unique to Fox News. Women everywhere are used to being dismissed, ignored or attacked when raising complaints about men in authority positions,” Kelly said. “They stay silent so often out of fear — fear of ending their careers, fear of lawyers, yes, and often fear of public shaming.”
Kelly said it gives her “no pleasure” to make these claims against her former employer, “but this must stop.”
“The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation, the silencing of them after the fact — it has to stop,” she said.