Who Is Bill O'Reilly?
Bill O'Reilly began his television career in local news outlets around the country. As a correspondent, he won several Emmy Awards before moving to Inside Edition, a popular "infotainment" program. When Fox News launched, he was hired to host his own program, The O'Reilly Factor, which featured conservative commentary and interviews and quickly became a top-rated cable news program. The host also wrote a series of best-selling books, including Killing Lincoln (2011) and Killing Jesus (2013). In 2017, after The New York Times revealed his history of sexual harassment allegations and settlements, O'Reilly was fired from Fox News.
Early Life and Education
William James O'Reilly Jr. was born on September 10, 1949, in New York City, to parents William James O'Reilly Sr. and Angela "Ann" O'Reilly. When he was a boy, his family moved to Long Island, where O'Reilly attended Catholic school. After high school he studied history at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, spending his junior year abroad at the University of London. In 1971, he graduated with honors and moved to Miami, where he taught high school for two years before enrolling at Boston University to pursue a master's degree in broadcast journalism.
Early Journalistic Success
O'Reilly's television news career began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and included stints at local news stations in Dallas, Denver, Portland and Boston. In 1980, he returned to New York to anchor his own program, and then joined CBS as a news correspondent. In 1986, he moved to ABC News, where, during his three-year tenure, he received two Emmy Awards and two National Headliner Awards for excellence in reporting.
O'Reilly's career took a turn in 1989 when he joined the nationally syndicated show Inside Edition. For the next five years, Inside Edition was the highest-rated "infotainment" program in America. After six years as its anchor, O'Reilly left Inside Edition to earn yet another master's degree, this time in public administration at Harvard University.
Fox News Host: 'The O'Reilly Factor'
Upon leaving Harvard, O'Reilly was hired by the start-up Fox News Channel to host his own show, The O'Reilly Factor. With hard-driven interviews and blunt commentary, O'Reilly dealt with the nation's hottest issues in an atmosphere described by him and his show's producers as the "No Spin Zone." In 2001, The O'Reilly Factor became the country's most watched cable news program. Shortly thereafter, O'Reilly expanded his media presence to include a weekly syndicated newspaper column and a national radio show called The Radio Factor, which ran from 2002 to 2009.
With his direct style of commentary, O'Reilly became increasingly known for his controversial statements. One such example occurred during a discussion on the talk show The View, during which he said, "Muslims killed us on 9/11." Co-host Whoopi Goldberg condemned the statement, pointing out that O'Reilly should have been more specific, rather than just generalizing the attackers as "Muslims." Goldberg and fellow co-host Joy Behar walked off the set. Barbara Walters, the primary host of The View, did not approve of the walk-out, but did not condone O'Reilly's statement, either.
Along with his television work, O'Reilly has written numerous books. His published titles include the nonfiction bestsellers The O'Reilly Factor (2000) and The No Spin Zone (2001) as well as the novel Those Who Trespass (1998). He has also released the controversial historical thrillers Killing Lincoln (2011) and Killing Kennedy (2012), which sold millions, topped the New York Times best-sellers list, and were adapted into a movie by the History Channel.
In the fall of 2013, O'Reilly released Killing Jesus. Despite the book's title, the author insisted that it focused more on history than it did on religion or spirituality. He followed with the titles Killing Patton (2014), Killing Reagan (2015) and Killing the Rising Sun (2016). In 2016, O'Reilly also teamed with James Patterson for the children's book Give Please a Chance, and the following year he examined American culture wars with Old School.
Personal Troubles and Harassment Claims
In 1996, O'Reilly married Maureen McPhilmy, and together they had a daughter, Madeline, and a son, Spencer. A contentious separation took place in 2010, however, with a divorce following the next year. McPhilmy later alleged that O'Reilly used his connections and financial-donor influence with the Nassau County Police Department to launch an internal affairs investigation into McPhilmy's Nassau County detective boyfriend, whom she later married.
In 2004, Andrea Mackris, one of his show's associate producers, filed a lawsuit against O'Reilly for sexual harassment. She alleged that O'Reilly made several sexually explicit phone calls to her in which he described his fantasies to her and advised her to use a vibrator. The New York Daily News reported that O'Reilly agreed to pay Mackris anywhere from $2 million to $10 million to settle the suit. O'Reilly denied all accusations and stated that he did what he needed to do in order to close the matter in the best interests of his family.
In spring 2017, a story in The New York Times revealed that, along with Mackris, O'Reilly had reached settlements with four other women over allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior. The women, who either worked for O’Reilly or appeared on his program, cited a pattern of verbal abuse, unwanted advances and lewd comments and phone calls.
The news struck a nerve with sponsors, as dozens of companies pulled ads from The O’Reilly Factor in the following days. Additionally, the host faced the possibility of discipline from bosses at the parent company, 21st Century Fox, who had ousted Fox News chairman Roger Ailes over similar complaints the previous summer.
On April 19, 2017, Fox News announced that it had dropped O'Reilly from the network. 21st Century Fox issued a statement which read: "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel."
New Path, New Charges
In the aftermath of his departure from his high-profile gig, O'Reilly sought to maintain his footing as a prominent conservative voice through different channels. He surfaced as a guest on other programs, and in August 2017 he launched the No Spin News show from his website. He also continued his popular book series with the release of Killing England: The Brutal Struggle for American Independence in September.
In October 2017, the controversial journalist returned to the headlines with news of a previously undisclosed settlement. The New York Times reported that, in addition to $13 million paid to other women over sexual harassment claims, O'Reilly had settled with former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl for a staggering $32 million. Furthermore, the Times report revealed that 21st Century Fox was aware of the settlement before offering O'Reilly a new contract, leaving the media company open to criticism for not addressing the matter sooner.
On December 4, a woman who had reached a settlement with O’Reilly in 2002 over harassment allegations sued the former host and Fox News for defamation and breach of contract. The woman, Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, claimed that O’Reilly violated the nondisclosure terms of the settlement by going on the offensive against his accusers after his firing, portraying her as a liar and an extortionist. Mackris and another former Fox News employee, Rebecca Gomez Diamond, joined the suit before the end of the year.
In April 2018, the federal judge presiding over the suit denied O'Reilly's motion to seal his settlement agreements. The ruling allowed previously unknown terms of the settlements to come to light, including a provision that stated Mackris was to disclaim any leaked evidence from her case "as counterfeit or forgeries," as well as the rundown of financial penalties she faced should she violate terms of the agreement.
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