Fired after harassment accusations, Bill O'Reilly has reportedly been given by Fox a payout worth tens of millions
Roxanne Jones says payout is an outrage and she decries a corporate culture that rewards misogyny
Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s 900AM-WURD. The views expressed here are solely hers.
Bill O’Reilly is reportedly walking away with tens of millions of dollars. How insulting. After being accused of habitual sexual harassment and other lewd acts, causing him and his employer, Fox News, to pay out $13 million in settlements; after costing the network millions when advertisers fled his show; after finally being fired from his job after years — he leaves with a golden payout.
Don’t think for one second his firing is a win for women in the workplace. It is far from that.
Had a New York Times story earlier this month not exposed reports of the toxic culture at the network that tolerated and enabled his alleged behavior for years, Fox would likely have kept silencing any women who complained.
Even O’Reilly’s book publisher at MacMillian (The Holt List), is standing with the fallen network host, perhaps hoping to cash in on Bill’s misogynist ways. He has a new book in the works; it’s planned for September.
It seems Fox has a clear corporate strategy in place: reward men who intimidate, berate and harass women at work. Silence the women at all costs. And, no matter what, do not hurt profits. O’Reilly’s show reportedly brought in $200 million for Fox. Still, most analysts predict profits won’t be hurt much by O’Reilly’s ouster.
How do we know about this Fox strategy? We saw it played out last summer, too, when another alleged top predator, former Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, was forced out amid accusations of sexual harassment. Anchor Gretchen Carlson got $20 million. Ailes’ “exit package” from Fox was about $40 million. When a corporate culture is toxic you can bet it starts at the top.
So, when the spotlight shifted to O’Reilly, who reportedly was making $18- to $20-million a year as the host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” it was not shocking. Fox likely got a clue that it had to act, since the allegations have kept coming. Only a few days ago, a black woman who was a clerical worker at the network in 2008, alleged she was intimidated by O’Reilly for years.
O’Reilly would come by her desk, leer at the woman and call her “hot chocolate,” she alleged. She was scared, her attorney, Lisa Bloom, told the Hollywood Reporter. Bloom, who helped the woman report the harassment to the Fox network’s hot line, says her client is not seeking monetary damages.
The repulsive scenario she and others allege are all too familiar to women across corporate America. And I am no exception. For nearly 25 years, I worked in newsrooms around the country, and while my job titles may have changed, one thing remained the same: sexual harassment. I experienced it and so did my female colleagues. It came up over and over in our discussions: how to combat the unwanted advances and hostility without damaging, or ending, our careers.
This is easier said than done. Because no matter how many diversity or sensitivity training courses employees sit through, there are always those caveman-types lurking around the office, leering and often lewd in their comments – or worse. These sorts of men resent women in the workplace and see us as little more than pretty office decorations.
My most memorable run-in was a late-afternoon visit from a male co-worker I barely knew. It was obvious he’d had too much to drink at a business lunch meeting. So when he walked into my office, wrapped his arms around me, tried to kiss me, and said: “I know you want me, too.” I was shocked.
If I’d had my golf clubs near me, I would have knocked him out. Instead, I had multiple meetings with human resources. I was told the incident went into his personnel file and that he’d promised to attend an AA program. He was a nice guy, my co-workers told me, he just had a drinking problem. Right. Years later, that same nice guy was promoted and even given the power to weigh in on my performance reviews. Needless to say, he did not give me the best reviews.
Yes, the cavemen are often rewarded for their noxious behavior — and we need look no further than the White House for further proof of this. A man is caught on video boasting about sexually assaulting women. We shrug it off and elect him President.
Make no mistake: Misogyny is like a genetic disease that’s passed down from generation to generation. It infects our corporate culture and our society at large. It is so ingrained in our culture that it is almost always excused, even at work, in casual defiance of laws that are meant to protect women from sexual harassment. It is left to women to put themselves and their careers on the line to see that the cavemen are shown the door. Hardly justice, especially when those men are paid handsomely to leave.
No, Fox gets no credit for this one. It has failed every woman who ever walked through its doors.