Former Fox News host Juliet Huddy spoke out for the first time about her accusations against Bill O’Reilly and what women face when going up against a corporation on Monday’s installment of NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today.
During an opening segment about this weekend’s report of new sexual harassment revelations against O’Reilly, fellow former Fox News host Kelly revealed that she, too, had complained about O’Reilly’s behavior. She said she understands the roadblocks women see when speaking out about sexual harassment, something an emotional Huddy explained as, “You are just this one person about to go up against a machine. It’s daunting and frightening and it holds you back from taking action sometimes.”
Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Huddy said O’Reilly pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011, and that when she rebuffed his advances, he tried to derail her career. Allegations included O’Reilly calling Huddy repeatedly, sometimes sounding as if he were masturbating, and after asking her to return a key to his hotel room, he appeared at the door in his boxer shorts. In exchange for her agreement not to sue, she was paid a sum in the high six figures, though 21st Century Fox and O’Reilly said her allegations were false.
To open her show, Kelly made public for the first time a letter (below) she wrote to the co-presidents of Fox News about O’Reilly, displaying the note she sent to Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy while discussing this weekend’s Times report about a new sexual harassment settlement made by O’Reilly.
“Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report, in my experience,” Kelly said. “However, O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false. I know because I complained.”
After welcoming Huddy — joined by attorney Doug Wigdor, who is handling 22 claims against Fox News — the three discussed how women can be “shamed in ways that have fingerprints on it and in ways that do not have fingerprints on it,” as Kelly put it, taking specific aim at Fox News media relations chief Irena Briganti.
On Saturday, the Times reported on a new settlement against O’Reilly for $32 million, reportedly paid by the former Fox News host to network analyst Lis Wiehl shortly before his contract with the company was renewed for $25 million per year.
According to the report, parent company 21st Century Fox was aware of the allegations made by Wiehl, which included “repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her.” The settlement, made in January, marks the sixth and largest agreement to settle harassment allegations against O’Reilly, who was fired in April and left the network with a $25 million payout.
Fox News claims to know O’Reilly settled, but that they were unaware of the terms. Kelly questioned how the company couldn’t have known about the “jaw-dropping” $32 million figure. She asked, “What on earth would justify that amount? What awfulness went on?”
Kelly also spoke to Huddy about why women, including her, sign non-disclosure agreements in connection with the settlements, something that prevents them from speaking publicly on the details.
“Many women go into the settlement agreement because they just don’t want to face what potentially could be coming at them,” Huddy explained of going up against a corporation. “If you’re just a woman who made $100,000 a year and you have bills to pay and other things going on and you have to worry about facing bad press, you have to think about your future. Some people just want to make it go away and move on with their lives.” She added that even today, she remains terrified — and still hasn’t landed a job since leaving.
“I think people have regrets when they sign non-disclosure agreements,” Huddy said, admitting it’s not necessarily the best move. “If there weren’t non-disclosures, more women could feel, ‘OK, I could potentially fight this,’ if you know other women had gone through the same thing.”
Earlier in the show, Kelly displayed the letter that she wrote to Shine and Abernethy after seeing O’Reilly go on CBS This Morning and respond in anger about “making his network look bad” when asked about the allegations she made against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes in her memoir, released in November of last year. The chapter in her book was something she said the Murdochs not only knew about, but approved.
Kelly said she was sharing the letter now because “it speaks volumes about powerful men and the roadblocks one can face in taking them on,” specifically calling out Briganti for being known for her “vindictiveness” against accusers. Near tears, Kelly implored: “It has to stop.”
In response to Kelly’s show, 21st Century Fox said in a statement, “Irena is a valued colleague and she has our full support.”
NBC could not verify the Times reporting, but Kelly opened her show by saying she spent the weekend speaking with women nonstop who were “deeply disturbed” over the report.
O’Reilly told the Times he “never mistreated anyone” but settled to protect his children, for whom he had been entangled in a custody battle at the time of the lawsuit. He added that the public outcry over the allegations against him was “politically and financially motivated. … And we can prove it with shocking information, but I’m not going to sit here in a courtroom for a year and a half and let my kids get beaten up every single day of their lives by a tabloid press that would sit there, and you know it. … This is horrible, it’s horrible what I went through, horrible what my family went through. … This is crap, and you know it.”
O’Reilly’s website posted his full statement, and the TV personality took to Twitter to point people to the site, saying, “My investigative team has done a superb job in exposing the lies and smear.” He added that he will have more to say on Monday.
Read Kelly’s letter in full, posted by NBC, below:
Oct. 23, 1:20 p.m.: Updated with Kelly letter and 21st Century Fox statement.