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Bill O’Reilly’s stalled campaign to clear his name – Washington Post

In his first public comments after being fired from Fox News in April amid sexual harassment allegations, Bill O’Reilly vowed to clear his name.

“I’m very confident the truth will come out,” he said on a podcast posted on his website, “and when it does, I don’t know if you’re going to be surprised, but I think you’re going to be shaken, as I am.”

Five months later, O’Reilly’s campaign appears stalled, with little to show for his effort. In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday, the former king of cable news spoke in recycled generalities about false accusations and liberal smear jobs — without much supporting evidence.

“What I have done is organize a legal team to get the truth to the American people,” O’Reilly told host Matt Lauer. “So, if you go to Newsmax.com or BillOReilly.com, you will see an article about one of the accusers of me, okay, who was arrested for filing a false police report.”

The report O’Reilly was referring to is hardly a blockbuster. Perquita Burgess, a former clerical temp at Fox News, claims that O’Reilly called her “hot chocolate” in 2008. Newsmax reported that two years ago, Burgess called Detroit police and said her boyfriend had struck her in the face with a gun, then recanted when police arrived and was arrested on a charge of making a false report. The charge was later dropped.

“It goes to credibility,” O’Reilly told Lauer. True enough. But Burgess is a minor figure in the O’Reilly saga, which began when the New York Times reported that he and Fox News had paid $13 million over several years to settle sexual harassment claims by five other women.

Dozens of advertisers already had deserted O’Reilly’s Fox News show before Burgess claimed that she, too, had been harassed. Casting doubt on Burgess’s accusation doesn’t really counter the notion that Fox News knew O’Reilly was a serial harasser and decided to remove him when sponsors learned of the accusations and boycotted.

O’Reilly told Newsmax that the Burgess news is merely “the first” revelation and promised that “there will be others.” As an opening argument, however, the report about Burgess is relatively weak. And O’Reilly further undermined his case by making misleading and inconsistent statements on “Today.”

At one point, Lauer summarized the Times report and asked O’Reilly if it was accurate. “I don’t know,” O’Reilly replied, “because I’m not privy to what Fox News did. After Roger Ailes went down, there was a flood of lawsuits — a flood — with dozens of people named, and the company did what the company did.”

O’Reilly made it sound as if he was caught in the dragnet that followed the resignation of Ailes, Fox News’s longtime chairman, who was accused of sexual harassment by roughly two dozen women last summer. But the Times reported that three of the five O’Reilly settlements preceded Ailes’s ouster, suggesting that O’Reilly was not just a victim of piling-on.

Also, O’Reilly’s plea of ignorance does not match what he told the Times five months ago. In April, O’Reilly’s contention wasn’t that he was “not privy to what Fox News did” but rather that he had agreed to settle harassment claims to protect his children from messy spectacles.

“I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way,” he said at the time. “And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”

What’s more, the Times reported that in one case, it was Fox News that was not privy to what O’Reilly did. After the Ailes episode, the network “learned of one [settlement] Mr. O’Reilly reached secretly in 2011,” according to the Times.

In a Monday appearance on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show, O’Reilly said more “shocking” disclosures will vindicate him.

“We’re going to be very precise, and it’s not going to be any he-said-she-said,” O’Reilly told Hannity. “Not going to be any of that. It’s going to be facts — cold, stone facts. And what we’re going to uncover — because we’re already pretty well down this road — is shocking. That’s the only word I could use: shocking. That this could happen in our republic, this kind of defamation.”

Perhaps O’Reilly has something truly explosive on the way, but what he has produced so far isn’t very compelling.

Bill O’Reilly’s stalled campaign to clear his name – Washington Post

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