Former Fox News Channel anchor Bill O’Reilly told NBC’s Today co-host Matt Lauer on Tuesday that he “absolutely did nothing wrong” regarding the five women whose accusations of sexual harassment led to the end of his popular weeknight program, The O’Reilly Factor.
However, he asserted that his dismissal was the result of an attempted sponsor boycott by liberal organizations, which led Lauer to ask if he was the victim of “a vast left-wing conspiracy.”
“Don’t be sarcastic,” O’Reilly replied.
Lauer began the interview by asking: “What was the exact reason you were given or your representatives were given by people at Fox News for your firing?”
“There was no reason,” O’Reilly replied. “They had a contractual clause that they could pay me a certain amount of money and not put me on the air.”
He continued by referring to “a sponsor boycott engineered by Media Matters, the radical left group, and that unsettled some people at Fox News.”
“You were accused of sexual harassment,” Lauer stated. “You said at the time you did absolutely nothing wrong. You stand by that?”
“I do,” O’Reilly responded.
Lauer then noted:
You were probably the last guy in the world that they wanted to fire because you were the guy that the ratings and the revenues were built on.
You carried that network on your shoulders for a lot of years, so doesn’t it seem safe to assume that the people at Fox News were given a piece of information or given some evidence that simply made it impossible for you to stay on?
“That’s a false assumption,” the former Fox News host replied. “There are a lot of other business things in play at that time and still today that 21st Century was involved with, and it was a business decision that they made, but there isn’t any smoking gun.”
“But you don’t let your Number One guy go” unless you have incriminating information, Lauer asserted.
“That’s not true,” O’Reilly again disagreed. “There are billions of dollars at stake in business deals, and they made a business decision that they could possibly prosper more without me. It was as simple as that.”
“Did you ever send a lewd text or email to another employee at Fox News?” the NBC host asked.
“No,” O’Reilly replied.
“Did you ever have any human resources cases brought against you?’ Lauer then asked.
“I’ve been in this business for 42 years,” the former Fox News host replied. “I've worked for 12 companies. Not one time did I have any interaction with HR, any complaints filed against me.”
Lauer continued to press his guest:
The New York Times reported that up to five women had come forward over the years and complained about sexual harassment at your hands, and that Fox News actually made deals with those women, financial settlements amounting to about $13 million for their silence.
Is that accurate?
“I don’t know because I’m not privy to what Fox News did,” O’Reilly responded. “After Roger Ailes went down, there was a flood of lawsuits, with dozens of people named, and the company did what the company did.”
“Every company in this country, including this one -- Comcast -- has these lawsuits,” he continued. “Now some of them are valid, and some of them are not. They settle them for a number of reasons. Now as an employee, I don’t really have any say in that matter.”
Lauer also sought to evoke sympathy for O’Reilly’s accusers.
But think about these five women and what they did. They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at.
Think of how intimidating that must have been. How nerve-wracking that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated by you?
“My conscience is clear,” the guest responded. “What I have done is organize a legal team to get the truth to the American people,” including an article about one of his accusers filing a false police report in 2015.
But she could have done that “and still be telling the truth about you,” the host asserted
“Look, anything’s possible, but it goes to credibility, doesn’t it?” O’Reilly asked. “If you look at the totality, this was a hit job, a political and financial hit job.”
“Is this a vast left-wing conspiracy?” Lauer asked.
“Don’t be sarcastic,” the guest responded. “We’re going be able to prove what we say. There are more things to come.”
Lauer concluded by asking a foolish question: “Were there any self-inflicted wounds here, Bill?”
“You know, nobody’s a perfect person,” O’Reilly replied, “but I can go to sleep at night very well, knowing that I never mistreated anyone on my watch in 42 years” of journalism.