O’Reilly’s Behavior Said to Have Helped Drive Megyn Kelly Out at Fox

O’Reilly’s Behavior Said to Have Helped Drive Megyn Kelly Out at Fox

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“If you don’t like what’s happening in the workplace, go to human resources or leave,” he said.

That experience, along with a deep skepticism about whether the network was truly committed to changing its culture after Mr. Ailes was forced out, was a factor in Ms. Kelly’s decision to leave Fox News for a new role at NBC News, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Her departure was a major blow to Fox News. Ms. Kelly was viewed as the network’s star of the future, and the Murdoch family, which controls 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent company, was prepared to pay her more than $20 million a year.

Representatives for Fox News and Ms. Kelly declined to comment. Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Ailes have both denied the allegations against them.

Marc E. Kasowitz, a lawyer for Mr. O’Reilly, said in a statement: “Mr. O’Reilly cannot comment on what Megyn Kelly thought, or did or did not do, except to say she never raised any such issue with him, nor did anyone else. At this time, it is apparent to any objective observer that Mr. O’Reilly is being subjected to a malicious campaign intent on harming his reputation and family through speculation and innuendo.”

The revelations about Ms. Kelly’s complaints regarding Mr. O’Reilly’s behavior come in the wake of a New York Times investigation that found that five women had reached settlements totaling about $13 million after making allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior against Mr. O’Reilly.

Since The Times published its report, more than 50 advertisers have pulled their spots from his show, and women’s and civil rights groups have called for Mr. O’Reilly’s dismissal.

Mr. O’Reilly is on vacation while the Murdoch family considers his future at the network. In making their decision, the Murdochs are awaiting the results of an investigation into Mr. O’Reilly’s behavior by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

That inquiry began with an examination into complaints made by Wendy Walsh, a former guest on Mr. O’Reilly’s show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” and was expected to expand if other issues arose.

Bill O’Reilly hosting “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel in 2015

Credit
Rob Kim/Getty Images

On Thursday, a former Fox News employee contacted Paul Weiss to report having witnessed an episode in 2002 when Mr. O’Reilly stormed into the newsroom and berated a producer, which led to one of the five settlements reported by The Times. The former employee spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution within the television industry.

Mr. O’Reilly’s show has continued to earn strong ratings and he has support among some people at the company, but some employees at Fox News and 21st Century Fox have expressed frustration that the Murdochs have continued to stand by him. Mr. O’Reilly’s contract with Fox News was extended even as the company was aware of several settlements that had been reached with women who had complained about his behavior.

Eboni K. Williams, a Fox News contributor who appears weekly on Mr. O’Reilly’s show, said in an interview that she had not been harassed by Mr. O’Reilly or anyone else at Fox News but that women at the network were under a “real cloud of suspicion.”

“The narratives at this point are either: A, you are suffering in silence, or B, your otherwise silent stance on the issues is some type of tacit compliance to wrongdoing,” she said. “For me, neither of those are true.”

Ms. Williams said that she had met with the top human resources executive at Fox News last week with suggestions about how to make it easier for women to report problems.

“We just want to do our jobs,” she said.

Ms. Kelly’s frustrations with Fox News intensified on the morning of Nov. 15, when Mr. O’Reilly appeared on “CBS This Morning” to promote “Give Please a Chance,” his new children’s book about manners. Norah O’Donnell, one of the show’s hosts, asked Mr. O’Reilly about Ms. Kelly’s book, which had been published that day and included sexual harassment accusations against Mr. Ailes. Mr. O’Reilly said he wasn’t “interested.”

“You’re not interested in sexual harassment?” Ms. O’Donnell asked.

“I am not interested in basically litigating something that is finished that makes my network look bad,” Mr. O’Reilly responded.

Shortly after hearing those comments, Ms. Kelly sent her email to Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine, who had recently been named the co-presidents of Fox News. In the email, Ms. Kelly said that Mr. O’Reilly’s comments on “CBS This Morning” were in bad form, according to the people with knowledge of the email who described its contents to The Times.

Ms. Kelly said that a man with Mr. O’Reilly’s history had no business publicly lecturing women inside or outside the company about sexual harassment, the people said. (In a highly publicized 2004 dispute, Mr. O’Reilly had settled sexual harassment allegations made by a young producer for about $9 million.)

Ms. Kelly added in the email that the push for blind loyalty was the reason the network had gotten into the mess with Mr. Ailes. Several people at the network became aware of the email.

Later that day, a producer on Ms. Kelly’s show learned that Mr. O’Reilly planned to revisit the issue during his show’s “Tip of the Day” segment, according to some of the people familiar with the episode. The producer called Mr. Shine, urging him to pull the segment, the people said.

That did not happen.

On his show that evening, Mr. O’Reilly played a clip of his appearance on CBS, stating he “was not amused” when “the conversation shifted to some problems the Fox News Channel had earlier this year.” He then delivered his rebuke again.

On her own show, broadcast live in the next hour that night, Ms. Kelly did not mention Mr. O’Reilly or the comments he had made. She did talk about her book, which included a chapter on sexual harassment and the issues at Fox News, and which had the approval of her bosses.

“Like me,” she said, “they believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

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