Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Fox News is distancing itself from its former tentpole personality, Bill O’Reilly, as some of his harassment accusers now want out of their nondisclosure agreements.
The New York Times reported in April that Fox News doled out a total of $13 million in settlements to five women who had accused the “O’Reilly Factor” host of “sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior.”
After O’Reilly told the Times he’s “vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” three of the women—Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, Andrea Mackris and Rebecca Gomez Diamond—filed a defamation suit against O’Reilly and the network in December.
A motion filed on Tuesday by Fox News’s legal team argues that O’Reilly, who was “dismissed” shortly after the Times investigation, “was no longer acting in the course of his employment,” and so the network “cannot be vicariously liable.”
“Nor can Fox be liable for O’Reilly’s limited statements prior to his firing,” the motion continues, “because those statements were made to advance his personal interests, not those of Fox News.”
O’Reilly’s baggage is not unlike that of Donald Trump, who’s now facing three potentially damning lawsuits regarding alleged extramarital affairs and harassment.
Citing Clinton v. Jones—the Supreme Court ruling that set the legal precedent for former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment—New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer G. Schecter on Tuesday allowed a defamation lawsuit against Trump filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos to proceed.
Also on Tuesday, former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal filed a defamation suit against tabloid magazine The National Enquirer in an effort to nullify an agreement she signed to keep quiet about the affair she says she had with Trump a decade ago. Similarly, adult film actress Stormy Daniels claims Trump never signed a $130,000 “hush agreement” to hide their decade-long affair.
Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer and nonfiction MFA candidate at Columbia University.