Justice for Bill O’Reilly

As Bill O’Reilly has just learned, America has become a nation that punishes men who are charged by women with inappropriate behavior.  Convictions based on proof are not necessary – the charges are sufficient.  Members of the Duke Lacrosse team lost a great deal – their lives were tarnished forever – before it finally became clear that their accuser was making up her charges out of whole cloth.  Since that time, college leaders – as well as corporate board room executives – have not learned the lesson of Duke – that men are entitled to their day in court.  An allegation should be different than a conviction.

However, Bill O’Reilly doesn’t need me to defend him, so I won’t.  O’Reilly himself charges that he was done in by “unfounded claims.”  Perhaps that’s true, but his saying so doesn’t mean he’s telling the truth.  I don’t know if O’Reilly is guilty of being a sexual harasser or just an arrogant Long Island jerk who became the easy target of some people who looked to cash in by blackmailing Fox News.  Neither do you. 

Which means we cannot know is whether Bill O’Reilly saw justice served for behavior that went way beyond legal bounds, or whether Bill O’Reilly was “lynched” by a mob powerful people at Fox who – in the wake of last year’s Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal – were afraid of one more scandal.

I can see how each of these two completely different scenarios could be plausible, and I can make a case for either one of them.

First, justice served.  Bill O’Reilly has a reputation for low-level sexual harassment in the work place. Some years ago, he and Fox settled a claim with a woman who cried foul after O’Reilly supposedly committed unnamed but unacceptable acts in her presence, or on her person.  Since it was settled out of court and the terms of the settlement were sealed, those details are mere speculation.  However, in the spirit of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” O’Reilly’s decision to settle the case means he must have been involved in a sexual harassment case.

Bill O’Reilly has a reputation for his relations with women. In addition to that harassment claim, he married late, and fathered a couple of kids – but then he divorced early, amid gory charges and counter-charges – not exactly what a good Catholic boy is supposed to do in a culture where divorce is still unacceptable.  Not only did he divorce his wife, but he went after her, hammer-and-tongs, to the point of seeking a massive financial settlement from her.  This could suggest an attitude towards women that is, at best, not politically correct.

On the other hand, the Lynch Mob.  O’Reilly had a past legal claim against him for sexual harassment at work. And he wasn’t nice to his ex-wife. On the other hand, the sexual harassment suit was settled with no finding of fault.  In addition, that lawsuit O’Reilly filed against his ex-, he just won to the tune of more than $14 million dollars. That settlement that suggests he was the wronged party, instead of the “wrong party.”

Beyond that, the 2016 Roger Ailes sexual harassment debacle saw Fox settling with a number of women for tens of millions of dollars.   That Ailes case also directly or indirectly cost Fox three gifted on-air women: Gretchen Carlson, Greta van Susteren and Megan Kelly.  The Ailes case also opened the door to further claims from women with dollar signs in their eyes.  The O’Reilly case showed that, in the aftermath of Ailes, Fox’s Murdoch-clan owners were in no mood for facing down more sexual harassment claims.

The Murdochs reportedly had already paid multi-million dollar settlements to women who’d claimed to have been harassed by O’Reilly.  As with the Ailes settlements, those payments all came straight off the bottom line, which is something public companies strive devoutly to avoid. However, unlike the Ailes issue, Fox was also losing millions of dollars in ad revenue thanks to the rabid Left’s tidal wave of criticism, an orchestrated outcry which quickly evolved into a pressure campaign to punish O’Reilly and Fox News.  O’Reilly’s attorney claims that it was this Left-Wing smear campaign that did O’Reilly in, and the evidence suggests that he’s right.

In that post-Ailes environment, it became possible for women at Fox who wanted to cash in to make unsubstantiated – or at least unverifiable – claims against O’Reilly, then sit back, waiting for a seven-figure settlement offer.  O’Reilly, as the network’s biggest profit-maker, made an easy target – especially because of his brash, blue-collar chip-on-his-shoulder attitude.  It’s not hard to imagine O’Reilly saying and doing things in his usual style that – taken out of context – could have been used some hypothetical gold-diggers to stake their claims.

But those claimants need not be crass gold-diggers to go after O’Reilly.  In an era of “snowflakes” who melt in the face of even the mildest criticism, O’Reilly’s perpetual New Yorker attitude could legitimately – if not accurately – convince some perpetual victims they’d been harassed, if not overtly sexually, then at least because they were women.

So there are two possible scenarios.  Each one is plausible, based on the limited facts available. But one thing is clear. Bill O’Reilly lost his case before the Fox News Court of Last Appeal without facing his accusers, without even having his day in that court. He was charged, tried, convicted and executed while on a pre-scheduled Easter vacation, timing which seems awfully convenient for Fox News.

However, there is a larger issue here.  As I said, I’m not defending O’Reilly – he’s perfectly capable of defending himself.  But this action by Fox is very much in sync with what is happening on college campuses across America, as well as in other less public venues such as in corporate and non-profit organization boardrooms.

Using the campus example, if a male student is accused of rape or sexual harassment, he can and often is found “guilty as charged” without being given the opportunity to confront his accuser – that’s seen by the colleges as more “harassment” – or even getting his day in court.  These young me are kicked out of school, they lose scholarships, and perhaps worse, they lose reputations with no hope of being able to set the record straight.

Across America, lives are being ruined on nothing more than hearsay.  Certainly, some of those young men are guilty and deserve what they get – and more.  But just as certainly, some of those young men are innocent of all charges, except – perhaps – bad judgment for angering a vengeful young woman.

O’Reilly’s case is a microcosm of a trend in America that the “wronged” woman must always be right, and the “wronging” man must always be wrong.  What we need is a healthy dose of justice – real justice, not the Lynch Mob’s rush to judgment.

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