More Trouble at Fox News: Ailes Faces New Sexual Claims and O’Reilly Loses an Advertiser
“Given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” Donna Boland, the manager of corporate communications for Mercedes-Benz, wrote in an email. Mercedes-Benz has spent an estimated $1.9 million in ads on “The O’Reilly Factor” in the last year, according to iSpot.tv, the TV ad analytics firm.
Despite Mr. O’Reilly’s history of settlements and the series of allegations against him, the company has extended his contract, which was set to expire this year, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. O’Reilly makes about $18 million per year. When the company extended the contract, it knew of multiple settlements that had been reached with women who complained about his behavior.
The company says it has discussed the issue with Mr. O’Reilly. It believes his new contract gives it more leverage over him regarding his behavior, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mr. O’Reilly has said that the allegations are without merit. He did not address the controversy on his show Monday night.
Earlier on Monday, Julie Roginsky, a current Fox News contributor, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Ailes, Fox News and Bill Shine, the network’s co-president, asserting that she faced retaliation for rebuffing Mr. Ailes’s sexual advances and for refusing to disparage Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News host who sued Mr. Ailes last summer.
And a former regular guest on Mr. O’Reilly’s program, Wendy Walsh, who had recounted her allegations against him to The Times, held a news conference with her lawyer to discuss those claims and to call for an independent inquiry into sexual harassment at the network.
Also, the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan is investigating Fox News, including how it structured settlements.
On Monday, Fox News moved to contain the fallout from the weekend’s developments, urging its employees in an internal memo to report inappropriate behavior to the human resources department or other network executives. “Particularly in light of some of the accounts published over the last few days, I wanted to re-emphasize the message we have been conveying at our training sessions for several months,” said Kevin Lord, the network’s new head of human resources, who was hired in the aftermath of the Ailes scandal.
Irena Briganti, a Fox News spokeswoman, declined to comment on Mercedes-Benz’s decision, Ms. Roginsky’s lawsuit or Ms. Walsh’s news conference.
Ms. Walsh, speaking in Los Angeles, repeated the account she provided to The Times. She said that Mr. O’Reilly did not follow through on a verbal offer to make her a contributor to his show after she declined an invitation to go to his hotel suite after a 2013 dinner in Los Angeles that was arranged by his secretary. She has not received a settlement and said she does not want any money. She did not report her complaints to Fox News at the time, she said, because she did not want to jeopardize her career prospects.
“Other women who are under gag orders, who cannot talk, they have been silenced,” Ms. Walsh said while seated next to her lawyer, Lisa Bloom. “I had to be the voice for them, because nobody can buy my voice. My voice is not for sale. My truth is not for sale.”
Ms. Walsh is recounting her experiences publicly despite receiving a warning on Saturday from Mr. O’Reilly’s lawyer, Fredric S. Newman, demanding that she retract the statements she made to The Times. The letter, obtained by The Times, said that her assertions were “patently false and highly defamatory” and to “cease and desist all defamation of Mr. O’Reilly’s character.”
“Your segment was a failure,” Mr. Newman wrote. “That is established as matter of undisputable fact in the minute-by-minute analysis of your segment, which showed that the segment was unsuccessful.”
Fox News’s troubles continued when Ms. Roginsky filed her suit in New York State Supreme Court. The suit echoes the complaints that other women have made about Mr. Ailes and the culture at the network, where women have said they faced harassment and feared reporting it. Ms. Roginsky’s lawyer is Nancy Erika Smith, the same lawyer who represented Ms. Carlson, who received a $20 million settlement after leaving the network.
Ms. Roginsky, who has been a paid contributor on Fox News since 2011, stated in her complaint that Mr. Ailes made sexist comments and unwanted sexual advances toward her during one-on-one meetings in his office, including requiring that she “bend down to kiss him hello” when he sat in a low armchair and telling her that they would get into “so much trouble” if he took her “out for a drink.”
Mr. Ailes also would tell her that she should “engage in sexual relationships with ‘older, married, conservative men,’” the suit stated.
“These comments and their delivery made it clear that Ailes wanted a sexual relationship with Roginsky,” the suit said.
Ms. Roginsky asserted in the suit that she faced retaliation for refusing Mr. Ailes’s advances. She said that she was denied a permanent position as a host on the program “The Five” and was rarely allowed to host her own segments on the show “Outnumbered,” unlike other panelists. She also stated that she was punished for not joining “Team Roger” when Ms. Carlson filed suit last summer — a reference, presumably, to a group of Fox News employees who publicly supported Mr. Ailes.
Susan R. Estrich, a lawyer for Mr. Ailes, said that he “vociferously denies” the allegations in Ms. Roginsky’s suit. She called the assertions “hogwash” and said that the suit was a “copycat complaint.”
“Her interactions with Mr. Ailes were not even close to the fictional version she wants people to believe now,” Ms. Estrich said in a statement. “The idea that Mr. Ailes would pressure Ms. Roginsky or any other women to have sexual relations with him is total nonsense.”
The developments raised new questions about the internal investigation at Fox News that was started after allegations about Mr. Ailes first became public. In the suit, Ms. Roginsky also stated that she discussed her complaints in a meeting with Mr. Shine and another top network executive during a meeting in November, months after Mr. Ailes was dismissed in July.
Ms. Roginsky said in her suit that Fox News did not investigate her complaints or tell her to contact Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the law firm 21st Century Fox hired to conduct an internal inquiry into sexual harassment issues at the network.
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