Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part I)

As you probably know by now, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc ended its relationship with Bill O’Reilly at Fox News following what are being called allegations of sexual harassment, the revelation of them in the news media despite Fox’s pay-out of over $13,000,000 to the women who were involved, and a subsequent wide-spread boycott of his high-rated show “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Ethics Observations:

1. Good. Long, long overdue, but good. Fox News should have fired O’Reilly after the first sexual harassment episode which was years ago; it is a firing offense in ethical organizations for most employees, and the fact that Fox allowed its most influential and most profitable star to skirt accountability and survive to harass again was a classic example of the rationalization known as The King’s Pass, or The Star Syndrome.

2. The fact that Fox News creator, leader, and boss Roger Ailes was also jettisoned after a sexual harassment scandal showed at the time that the organization had developed an unethical culture that was hostile to women….as Ethics Alarms pointed out last July. (“There seems to be a culture of sexual harassment at Fox, coming down from the rotting fish head in charge, Roger Ailes.”)  This was the other shoe dropping.

3. O’Reilly issued a carefully crafted statement composed with the assistance of a “crisis consultant”:

“Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television,” O’Reilly said in a statement. “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”

I would say the Bill is lying through his teeth with the “unfounded” part, but sexual harassers often don’t think they have done anything wrong. They think they were just being “nice,” or they think their advances were misunderstood, or they believe that the harassment accusations are a cover for something else. Ailes also denies that he did anything wrong. This is typical. It would have been a wonderful thing if O’Reilly could admit that his conduct was wrong and apologize to the victims while sincerely promising to change, but like most harassers, he couldn’t mount the character and the acknowledgement of hard reality to do it.

4. What is more damaging, perhaps, is that so many of O’Reilly’s fans and followers will believe his self-delusion because they also don’t “get” sexual harassment, and think the whole issue is manufactured feminist nonsense and political correctness. Boys will be boys! Everybody does it! 

5. If there is anyone who is informed and intelligent and still followed Bill O’Reilly without constant cognitive dissonance, they should be ashamed of themselves. If one was alert, Bill constantly revealed himself as a blowhard who was convinced he was smarter than he was, or perhaps more accurately, knew he was faking it and adopted a assertive, intimidating and self-righteous persona as cover for his own insecurities. 

The signature significance moment for O’Reilly’s intellectual and educational deficits came in 2000, when he complained that murderer David Westerfield’s defense attorney was “lying” by zealously defending his client. O’Reilly passed his ignorance and outrage on to millions, and even launched a campaign to get the attorney disbarred. O’Reilly also was fond of citing his educational credentials, often telling his audience that he was a “Harvard graduate.” Waving the Harvard banner publicly is a lot like candidate Donald Trump constantly telling us how smart he is (it is evidence of the opposite) and in O’Reilly’s case, it’s misleading too. Yes, O’Reilly is technically a Harvard grad, as he has a masters degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, but that not what most of his audience thinks he means. They think he is saying that he graduated from Harvard College, and that’s exactly what he wanted them to think.

6. The consensus seems to be that Fox dumped O’Reilly, not because he contributed mightily to the hostile work environment at the network, but because it feared long term financial repercussions of the bad publicity. Wrote the Times,

“Lost revenue is one matter and tarnished reputation another. If the financial fallout from the O’Reilly backlash was relatively minor — many advertisers simply shifted their spending to other Fox News programs — it was difficult to ignore the public image of at least 50 major brands withdrawing support from the network’s most popular host.”

Well, that’s depressing, but it is probably accurate. Fox fired O’Reilly because they saw him as a liability, not because it believed that harassing female employees was anything to get all upset about. When they paid out hush money and damages to his accusers, it was the unethical practice we call  “Ethics accounting” at Ethics Alarms: O’Reilly was making so much money for Fox that the $13 million was regarded as a cost of doing business.

You fire sexual harassers because sexual harassment is intolerable workplace conduct and management behavior that destroys lives and organizations. That’s why, and not because it isn’t profitable.

7. On CNN, MSNBC, social media and elsewhere, O’Reilly and Fox News foes were expressing outrage that O’Reilly is leaving with a $25,000,000 pay-out, the equivalent of one year’s salary under his now-dead contract. This is either ignorance or stupidity on the part of these critics. First, sexual harasser or not, Fox News made a fortune on O’Reilly’s talents and toil. There is nothing wrong or excessive about acknowledging that with the equivalent of a year’s salary in a severance package. Second, this was a negotiated settlement. O’Reilly had many ways to make Fox miserable, and enough loyal followers to cost the network a lot more than $25 million as it fought a lawsuit and public backlash. Bill is also, as Fox News knows, a nasty, vindictive guy. It got off cheaply.

8. This reaction by the anti-O’Reilly forces also shows that those pushing for O’Reilly’s ouster were less concerned with the welfare of women in the workplace than silencing a powerful voice on the Right that interfered with progressive propaganda. The organized boycott threats against sponsors were a means of killing a political adversary, and that was the primary motive. Many of these same champions of women in the workplace never complained about Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment activities, or Joe Biden’s hands wandering over the bodies of young women trapped in photo ops with the VP. They have betrayed their true intentions with their unseemly gloating over O’Reilly’s fall, and also by blurting out comments like those of New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, who hinted on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Fox News’s Sean Hannity be fired next, saying, “I think you have to look at somebody like Sean Hannity and question whether or not his —  almost propaganda-like attitude and programs every night is going to be acceptable in the minds of the family, which is clearly trying to shift the network.”

Wait: wasn’t this was about sexual harassment?

[To be continued…]


23 thoughts on “Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part I)

  1. Bill went from being a pretty good if opinionated reporter to being an arrogant, aggressive bully in the course of his twenty years. He often had temper tantrums while interviewing guests, and almost always treated his female counterparts whom he had as guests like they were second class citizens. I was pleased to note that both Megan Kelly and Martha McCullom (Sp?)stopped putting up with it a while back. I am equally pleased to note that Tucker Carlson is taking his place. Bye, Bill.

      • Kelley, when she first started, went on Bill’s show and was obviously intimidated by him. Shortly thereafter, however, she argued strongly with him about a SCOTUS case and he had to back down. Loved her ever since. By the way, has anybody noticed she has no new show at NBC yet? Damned expensive way to shut somebody up. Wife and I are expecting her back at Fox, not that Ailes and O’Reilly are gone.

    • I am also pleased to see Tucker Carlson. I call him “Scowlson,” because of his “game face” or distinctive scowl that seems almost permanently etched onto his face, during his contact segments with guests. (That scowl, plus mouth hanging open, I have deduced is his adversarial face or look of incredulity.) It really was long past time that O’Reilly went off the air. I stopped watching him after how he treated George Will, whom Bill set up as a whipping boy for challenging a passage in the book, “Killing Reagan.”

  2. I’m really glad O’Reilly is of the air on Fox for multiple reasons and only one of the reasons is related to all these allegations of harassment. O’Reilly has been irrelevant to intelligent thinking Conservatives for a long time now; it’s time for Fox to move on from O’Reilly and similar pundits and shift it’s overall pundit rhetoric.

      • Oh, that was deft, Alizia. Zoltar either has to support the past and implicitly embrace accusations (non proven as yet, granted) of sexual harrassment, or cast forth into the desired ‘new,’ which might just ally him with the Alt crowd in some ways…

        In other words, the Alt crowd has some honest, good points when you get past the progressive smears. Many are conservatives who have had it with losing because their decency has been abused by the left.

      • Alizia Tyler asked, “Shift to what exactly?”

        Shift to more moderate rhetoric, much more of the truly fair and balanced and shift away from the extremes; set a new standard.

        Alizia Tyler asked, “How would you describe the new conservatism that you wish to see?”

        It appears that you are attempting to read that which does not exist in the blank spaces between the lines.

        • I believe that I understand what you mean when you say ‘shift to a more moderate rhetoric’.

          But my question, which may of course be somewhat difficult to answer, has less to do with rhetoric (embellishment really) and is more interested in your understanding of principles.

          Conservative principles being one thing…

          Conservative rhetoric being another…..

          My own view (it is really my personal issue, problem and endeavor) is to define the principles of Conservatism and so I seek to ask question of others which ultimately ask how they come to their definitions.

          Being annoying is just icing on the cake, an added bonus at no additional cost!

  3. Bill was a putz. No problem with the firing.

    Not surprised by the hypocrisy on the left, either. It is what one has come to expect from progressives in media.

    Notice that the left still cannot simply make it uneconomic to employ right leaning pundits, but must find something repulsive or make unfair laws to get their way. There is money to be made in these people’s opinions, and that should prove that the country is not as left leaning as these progressives would like to think.

    • Bill was a ‘putz’ and therefor got fired could be the defining statement.

      Probably we will now witness a string of public events (hangings really) as a reverse-catharsis for the Trump election catastrophe.

      Something stranger might be going on: the decimation of what is understood by the progressive left to be the center of right-winged opposition to the Grand Plan.

      (This view would not deny, necessarily, that Bill is either a ‘putz’ or that he might have made some sort of pass at a women from time to time).

      In the Great Game being played before our eyes, the Fall of Bill is just one play-within-a-play, is it not?

      The Louse Trap!

  4. When I read these stories, like in the NYTs, and then read the comments, and even for example in Dragin’s comment just above, what I notice is the animus, the anger, the emotion.

    Once the is the accusation in the air of ‘sexual harrassment’ (and there is a group of these sort of accusations that can be made, and no one of them needs to be substantiated, no one needs to be a real fact) the Public projects into them what seems to me to be whole inner pockets of frustration, anger, discontent and desire for revenge against their enemies, real or imagined. Once this gets out into the public domain (socail media) it turns into social madness.

    And then the ladies show up at the Corporate entranceway, with torches, demanding that a public downfall be enacted for them, a sort of lived therapy where woman-gets-even-with-man theatre. And if you don’t quite believe the story as it is presented, or like me see it as connected to political battles going on all across the Internet and in the Media, you will be seen as *supporting* harrassment in the workplace and as a backwards, evil person.

    A great deal more *evil* will be released into the world by the giving in to hysterial women and woman-crowds and the social media attack committees.

    The immense power of the Crowd is realized and understood profoundly by Business and advertisers. It does not matter in fact if there was or was not specific and provable harrassment, because it is the accusation that there was that is really what matters. If you don’t believe the complaining woman, if you do not accept 100% at face value what she is saying, then they will come after you.

    Just as Fox or whoever owns it ultimately made business decisions when they paid to those women who made accusations, so it is likely that those women also made business decisions when they decided to bring the charges. It must get easier as time goes by, must it not? Just *whisper* that you have an unsubstantiated claim and you will get their attention.

    In this climate, could it really be expected that a corporate network would decide, on the base of a entical decision, to resist all mere claims? the mere accusation that something untoward happened? That would be a naive view.

    I listed to the complaint (given on a rival network of course!) of the woman who claims O’Reilly invited her up to his suite and it occurs to me that she is dealing in innuendos and assertions which are as open to interpretation as innuendos and assertions always are. She crafted a story to make it appear really bad, really devastating to him. But did it really and truly happen that way? Who knows and who can know?

    None of this matters though because what is on trial here, and the purpose of the catharsis-theatre, is quite distinct from ‘reality’ and ‘truth’. It seems to have a good deal to do with psychology, power, civic and social issues or a wide variety, and all this within the Grand Theatre of Absurdity and Distortion which defines media, culture, the public sphere, in our present.

    It gets absurder and absurder with each turn of the NYTs page.

    • Alizia, you are correct in that I am angry at O’Reilly, but not specifically because of the harassment. Over the many years in which I have watched him, I observed these changes in him, primarily as he made more money and gained power and prestige. He did become a bully, and, I believe, that is what let him believe he could get away with the harassment. I have no difficulty at all seeing this as a culture at Fox, a culture promoted by both Rodger and Bill. It is reflected in the mode of dress in the female news readers, and, surprisingly, the high bar stools on which they are required to sit. This is not uncommon, but it is designed to allow the camera to take ‘up the skirt’ shots. And why that particular set decoration should be refused by anyone employed by the corporation.

      Like it or not, harassment is very real. Sure, there are going to be the Anita Hill’s and Justice Thomas’ and Herman Cain’s but there will also be the Bill Cosby’s and it is against ALL of these that we must guard.

      • I have personally enjoyed the O’Reilly factor for many years, and although I have found that Mr. O’Reilly perhaps crossed the line of decency or decorum at times, it seems to me that some of you extreme left leaning commentators are almost equating some of the actions to that of serial killers or other despicable persons. Perhaps you are the ones whom should be looking into the mirror now and then, as I am certain almost all human beings have a few things or moments in their lives to be ashamed of. Perhaps one of the most notable and despicable person in my lifetime, as it pertains to similar things is that of the Pervert in Chief, Mr. Bill Clinton himself, whom in many’s estimation may even have been a pedophile, a despicable pig whom used the power of his office to degrade,humiliate and destroy the victim wherever he went. This was truly the Pig of all Pigs, and of course the Mrs. whom was and is equally as deplorable and despicable in my estimation. I get so sick and tired of hearing from those on the left, whom in my opinion, uses politics, lies,deceit, bait and switch tactics to smear, destroy those whom simply have a differing opinion. Nothing in my estimation is more despicable, and for those on the progressive left, oh you people have not a clue as to what your agenda will get you down the road, and socialism is not even close to what you all think, even some of the best examples or nations with a socialistic society. If nothing else, the left needs to grow up, get your facts straight on many of the issues you claim to know something about, but in fact know nothing about. As for President Trump, perhaps we all need to give him an opportunity to create a better future for all Americans, or else I believe this nation is heading towards civil strife, perhaps civil war if things do not cool down. That would be a fight the left would not want. Whether republican, democrat or Independent, we are all human beings, we all have defects,faults or issues as a result of life, challenges, our upbringing and as a result of how our parents raised us, especially those whom pile on all kinds of accusations against others without any evidence, so I say to those whom throw stones, it is time to grow up.

  5. What is more damaging, perhaps, is that so many of O’Reilly’s fans and followers will believe his self-delusion because they also don’t “get” sexual harassment, and think the whole issue is manufactured feminist nonsense and political correctness. Boys will be boys! Everybody does it!

    This is because there is a campaign to dumb down the definition of sexual harassment to the point of incoherence,

    The new standards apply to every college receiving federal funding. According to Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE, the government mandates would allow a student to be charged with harassment if he asks another student out on a date and the target of his attentions deems that request “offensive.” Telling a sex joke could support a sexual harassment charge, as would using the word “fuck” in the presence of a female who resented it. FIRE points out that many presentations, debates, and expressions on campuses can now be censored as sexual harassment, citing campus performances of “The Vagina Monologues,” debates about sexual morality, and pro-con discussions on gay marriage as potential offenses. Lukianoff, protesting that DOJ and DOE have now established speech codes that violate the First Amendment and completely ignore decades of legal precedent,says he is appalled at the attack on “free speech on campus from our own government.”

    Appalled, yes, but certainly not surprised. The grip of political correctness is grasping for the throat of Free Speech in the Obama years, as the news media sits complacent and inert. FIRE is among those with the courage and determination to fight this blatant abuse of government power, but that does not diminish the seriousness of a Federal government that pays its election IOU’s to women’s rights groups by sacrificing free speech on campus.

  6. Jack,

    You’ll forgive my ignorance, but is getting a masters from an institution considered less prestigious than getting your bachelors there? Are the standards less exacting? This isn’t a gotcha or sarcastic point phrased as a question, I’m genuinely curious …

    Thanks! Also, in other news, I hope you’re feeling better and that your family situation has been dealt with or is on the mend.

    • Lord I hope not. I thought I had finally gotten out of having to put my BS from the South Hampton Institute of Technology on my resume.

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