Bill O’Reilly won’t be able to spin himself out of this one. A federal judge ruled against O’Reilly’s motion to keep the settlements sealed and now we see why. Among the revelations in the agreements, O’Reilly hired a private investigator to spy on and investigate his accuser and under the terms of the agreement, she was ordered to lie, even under oath. From CNN:
The judge’s ruling means that certain terms of the settlements are coming to light for the first time. A motion filed Wednesday by Neil Mullin and Nancy Erika Smith, the attorneys representing the three plaintiffs, claims that the settlement reached with Andrea Mackris, a former Fox News producer who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against O’Reilly in 2004, required her to “lie — even in legal proceedings or under oath — if any evidence becomes public, by calling evidence ‘counterfeit’ or ‘forgeries.'”
Incredibly, the unsealed records show outrageously unethical behavior from the lawyer representing Andrea Mackris in the original case. He abruptly switched sides in the middle of negotiations and went to work for O’Reilly!
The filing asserts that Mackris’ attorney, Benedict Morelli, switched sides and agreed to become O’Reilly’s lawyer while negotiating the agreement.
“This profoundly unethical conflict left Ms. Mackris virtually without legal counsel,” the filing said. Morelli did not respond to a request for comment.
What did that cost Bill O’Reilly and Fox News? O’Reilly also hired well-known loudmouthed Fox contributor and longtime private investigator Bo Dietl to investigate Mackris.
The filing by the plaintiffs also says that Mackris’ agreement acknowledges that Bo Dietl, a longtime private investigator and former Fox News contributor, and others “surveilled, investigated and amassed information about Ms. Mackris, including tapes, photographs, emails, letters, calendars and diaries.”
In a phone interview with CNN on Wednesday, Dietl, who ran a long shot campaign for mayor of New York City last year, insisted that he has never done anything untoward in his work, and said that he was never hired by O’Reilly, Ailes or Fox. Instead, he said he was hired by the law firm that represented O’Reilly and Fox News in the case.
Nice parsing. The revelations stem from a defamation lawsuit filed by three women who’d reached settlements with O’Reilly and Fox News after O’Reilly couldn’t keep his big mouth shut. From CNN in December 2017:
The women, Rebecca Gomez Diamond and Andrea Mackris, are both former Fox News employees. They are asking for damages for emotional and reputational harm, among other things.
Diamond and Mackris are joining a lawsuit brought against O’Reilly by Rachel Witlieb Bernstein in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this month. The women are represented by the same firm that helped former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson bring the lawsuit against former network CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes that led to his ouster.
“They are tired of being smeared with lies by a bully who thinks that his victims are afraid to answer them,” Nancy Erika Smith, one of the attorneys representing the women, said in a statement. “They are standing up for the truth, joining the many voices of brave women who are no longer tolerating abuse or being silenced.”
Federal Judge Deborah Batts made a point in her ruling that could have implications down the line:
Batts also said O’Reilly “has not even come close to rebutting this First Amendment presumption” that favors public access to documents.
What other public figure might be sweating about the public release of secretive settlements?