Take time out to watch Bill O’Reilly circle the drain:
“Guys like O’Reilly who like to espouse what right-wing Republicans espouse about family values shouldn’t be doing stuff like this,” [plaintiff Andrea Mackris’s lawyer Benedict Morelli] said, adding: “The man knows he did it. He finally got it through his thick skull that he did it, and he’s not going to get away with it. . . . He’s going down.”
After Rush Limbaugh, who acknowledged an addiction to painkillers, and William Bennett, who admitted he had a gambling habit, O’Reilly — a television and radio host and best-selling author — is the latest high-profile conservative commentator to face humiliating allegations. But O’Reilly and Fox responded by filing a preemptive lawsuit against Mackris and Morelli, accusing them of extortion.
Mackris, 33, took her case to “Good Morning America” and “Today” yesterday, telling the ABC program: “There were definitely threats. I was threatened.”
Asked why she returned to “The O’Reilly Factor” in July, after a few months at CNN, if the earlier conversations were so offensive, Mackris said: “I came back because he agreed to not ever talk to me that way again.” But then, she said, “the language was ratcheted up. He pushed the boundaries further and further from what I had established.”
O’Reilly, who is 55 and married, defended himself on his Fox show the last two nights and on the “Live With Regis and Kelly” program yesterday, saying: “I knew that by filing this lawsuit I was going to perhaps ruin my career. . . . If I have to go down, I’m willing to do it. But I’ve got to make a stand.”
Said Morelli: “That’s a very interesting comment to make for a guy who is innocent, isn’t it? Mr. Family Values. Mr. No-Spin Zone. Ask him, did he do it?”
O’Reilly’s attorney, Ronald Green, would not deny that the sexual conversations had taken place, saying he could not address whether his client “used a particular word or phrase at any time as part of a joke.” He said that the lurid, highly detailed “snippets” recounted in Mackris’s lawsuit could have been “taken out of context” or “spun for exaggeration,” and that O’Reilly “wants to hear the tapes if they exist.” Green said he has witnesses who say Mackris told them that she decided to tape O’Reilly when the four-year employee returned to Fox.
In her suit against O’Reilly, Fox and Westwood One, which carries O’Reilly’s radio show, Mackris said that in numerous phone conversations her boss suggested she buy a vibrator, boasted of having taught women to masturbate, discussed what kind of sex they should have together and launched into “a vile and degrading monologue” after interviewing two porn stars on “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Mackris alleged in the suit that when she told O’Reilly in April that he had engaged in similar conduct with other staffers and should be careful, he replied: “If any woman ever breathed a word I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born. . . . It’d be her word against mine and who are they going to believe? Me or some unstable woman making outrageous accusations. They’d see her as some psycho, someone unstable.”
Debra Katz, an attorney who specializes in sexual harassment cases, said that when a company sues an employee who is about to file a harassment complaint, “the courts are more inclined to see it as a retaliatory lawsuit.” Asked if Mackris’s case was weakened by her decision to return to Fox, Katz said O’Reilly’s alleged conduct “went from what could be seen as sexual banter about ‘you should buy a vibrator’ to really disgusting, unwelcome sexual remarks.”