#1 James Murdoch Says Size of O’Reilly Settlement Was ‘News to Me’ by addswilson 26.10.2017 04:47

James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox, on Wednesday defended how the company responded to sexual harassment allegations against the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, stating that he did not know the size of Mr. O’Reilly’s $32 million settlement until recently.

It was the first time that Mr. Murdoch had publicly addressed the controversy since The New York Times reported over the weekend that the company had granted Mr. O’Reilly a contract extension the month after he agreed to the settlement with a longtime Fox News legal analyst. At the time, the company was aware of at least six settlements involving harassment allegations against Mr. O’Reilly.

“The settlement wasn’t a company settlement, and that was news to me when we saw the number the other day,” Mr. Murdoch said, speaking at the Paley International Council Summit, a media conference, in New York.

“At the time, what you do is you deal with what you know,” he added. “You investigate things thoroughly. You do the best job you can with that, and you try to make the right decision.”

In response to questions from The Times, 21st Century Fox has previously acknowledged that it was aware of the woman’s allegations against Mr. O’Reilly — which included harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of pornography and that a settlement had been reached. The company has said that it considered the dispute a personal issue between Mr. O’Reilly and the woman, Lis Wiehl.

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When asked about whether the disclosure of Mr. O’Reilly’s $32 million settlement and his subsequent four-year contract worth $25 million a year posed a challenge to efforts to change the culture at Fox News in the wake of sexual harassment scandals at the network, Mr. Murdoch said that the critical question is how the company responds to claims.

“I can’t make sure that everyone in the business doesn’t behave badly at times, right?” he said. “What I can make sure is if we know something, we can react to that information. We can be decisive about it.”

Mr. Murdoch did not address how at the time that the company renewed Mr. O’Reilly’s contract it was aware of other settlements involving Mr. O’Reilly.

“It is easy, I think, from the outside, to look at it and say, ‘Well, didn’t you know that?’” he said. “We made a decision that is clear, and I hope sends a really strong signal to all of my colleagues, to everyone in the industry, etc., that actually there are behaviors that are not to be tolerated, and we will continue to strive to live up to that.”

The news of Mr. O’Reilly’s $32 million settlement has raised questions about whether it will impinge the regulatory review of 21st Century Fox’s $15 billion bid for Sky, the European satellite giant. Mr. Murdoch said he expected the deal to be cleared in the first half of 2018.

Mr. Murdoch’s comments followed the news Tuesday that UTA, Mr. O’Reilly’s longtime talent agency, planned to drop him as a client after his contract expires at the end of the year. In a statement, Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Mr. O’Reilly, said, “Bill has already lined up new representation.” He did not provide details about the new representation.

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