Bill O’Reilly ‘a good person’, president says, despite reports he paid off women he harrassed
U.S. President Donald Trump.
Washington: President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended a star Fox News host accused of sexual harassment by several women, saying that Bill O’Reilly is “a good person.”
A number of major advertisers have cancelled spots on US television’s most-watched cable news show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” following recent revelations of three new cases alleging abusive behaviour.
The New York Times reported last week that the cable news giant and O’Reilly had paid five women a total of $13 million in the cases spanning 15 years, in exchange for their silence and agreement not to pursue litigation against Fox News, a favorite among conservatives.
While two of the cases were previously known, the Times said it had unearthed three more cases of harassment, two of a sexual nature and one alleging verbally abusive behaviour by O’Reilly.
Trump, asked Wednesday by the Times about the accusations against O’Reilly, came to the defense of the 67-year-old conservative TV host.
“I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” the 70-year-old president said. “He’s a person I know well — he is a good person.”
“Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled,” Trump said, suggesting O’Reilly should have fought the lawsuits in court.
In a statement released after the New York Times report, O’Reilly did not directly deny any of the allegations but said his prominence made him “vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity.”
During the US election campaign, Trump had defended then Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who also was accused of sexual harassment.
The scandal led to last July’s ouster of Ailes, 76, who built the conservative news channel at the request of Rupert Murdoch, head of media giant News Corp.
Trump’s election campaign was roiled after the release of a 2005 video that caught him on a “hot mike” making vulgar and degrading remarks about women.
After the video’s release, a dozen women came forward to publicly accuse the Republican candidate of abusive behavior that, in some instances if confirmed, would have amounted to sexual assault.
Trump has consistently denied those accusations.