Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
A woman who settled a harassment complaint against Bill O’Reilly more than a decade ago filed suit Monday against the former television news show host and his former employer, Fox News, for defamation and breach of contract.
In court records obtained by The New York Times, Rachel Witilieb Bernstein said statements made by O’Reilly and Fox News after the allegations were made public have painted her as a liar and an extortionist, while also violating the settlement’s confidentiality clause.
According to The Times, Bernstein, who worked as a junior producer for Fox News, settled with O’Reilly and the news network in July 2002 after she made multiple complaints about O’Reilly’s behavior.
“O’Reilly portrayed himself as a ‘target’ and claimed that complaints against him are extortionate,” the lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said, according to The Times. “This is false. In fact, he is a serial abuser and Ms. Bernstein’s complaints about him were far from extortionate.”
As part of the 2002 settlement, all involved parties agreed to say only that the matter had been settled if asked about the allegations.
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
Television host Bill O'Reilly attends the Hollywood Reporter's 2016 35 Most Powerful People in Media at Four Seasons Restaurant on April 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
“Knowing Ms. Bernstein and Mr. O’Reilly’s other victims are afraid to speak out because he and Fox forced them to sign nondisclosure agreements, O’Reilly and Fox have made false and disparaging claims,” Neil Mullin, an attorney for Bernstein, said in a statement obtained by The Times. “They should release all victims from their NDAs and let the truth out. It is cowardly to publicly attack these women knowing they have been subjected to contractual provisions requiring absolute silence.”
Fox News cut ties with O’Reilly in April after multiple women claimed the popular news show host sexually harassed and verbally abused them. Bernstein did not accuse O’Reilly of sexual harassment. Among other incidents, current and former Fox News employees told The Times that O’Reilly “stormed into the newsroom and screamed” at Bernstein in 2002.
The Times reported that about $13 million was paid out to five women who have accused O’Reilly of harassment, including Bernstein.
At least one other settlement has since been reached involving O’Reilly and allegations of sexual harassment. In October, The Times reported that Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl settled for $32 million.