Fired Fox News Voice O’ Truth Bill O’Reilly is having a rough day, the poor fellow. Tuesday, a federal judge in a defamation suit against O’Reilly — brought by women with whom he’d settled harassment cases, and then later accused of being part of a liberal plot to make him look bad — ruled that details of those previous settlements can’t be kept secret because they’re material to the defamation suit. Judge Deborah Batts said in her ruling that O’Reilly
“has failed to present compelling countervailing factors that could overcome the presumption of public access” to the agreements.
Batts also said O’Reilly “has not even come close to rebutting this First Amendment presumption” that favors public access to documents.
Batts pointed out that if O’Reilly was going to argue the settlements were proof he hadn’t defamed the women, he couldn’t very well ask the court to keep those very documents “from public view.” As WaPo’s Erik Wemple notes,
Any consideration of O’Reilly’s motions, wrote Batts, “relies heavily on a full examination of the Settlement and Arbitration Agreements in question.” There’s a need for the court to show its work in this regard, too: “When this Court issues its Opinion on his Motion, the public deserves to see what judicial document it relied on,” the judge argued in her opinion.
Sorry, Billo, those earlier settlements have to be part of the public record. O’Reilly is being sued, after all, thanks to his own tendency to shoot off his own fool mouth and deny that there was any substance to the cases he had settled, the details of which were of course hidden behind nondisclosure agreements. But when he appeared on the Today Show in September 2017, six months after Fox News canned him, he just couldn’t resist calling his accusers Lying Liars who Lied:
O’Reilly explained to Matt Lauer (yes, we know) that he’d been framed, framed, and that he’d only been fired because mean liberals had organized an advertising boycott against him just because he was a conservative. As for all those settlements, O’Reilly said they were just Fox News making a business decision that settlements were cheaper than going to trial. Oh, but then he went that one step further, saying, “My conscience is clear,” and insisting (after suggesting that at least one accuser had a history of lying), “If you look in totality, this was a hit job — a political and financial hit job.”
That and other denials is what led to the defamation suit, which also claims O’Reilly had, by talking about the cases, violated his side of the confidentiality agreements. So thanks to Judge Batts’s ruling, we now get to see the details of the settlements. One, with former Fox News producer Andrea Mackris — who endured listening to O’Reilly’s gross fantasy about showering with her and rubbing her all over with a “falafel” (loofah, whatever) — has some jaw-droppingly insane provisions in it (you can read the whole document here).
Among other fun stuff, the settlement, negotiated by Makris’s lawyer at the time, Benedict Morelli, included a section agreeing to turn over to O’Reilly’s legal team all the evidence Mackris had of his harassment, including the “originals and any and all copies” of virtually every form of documentation Mackris might have had — audio recordings, written materials (down to “transcripts, notes, diaries, calendars, memos, photographs, video recordings, digital recordings, letters and emails”) as well as any digital versions of the same. Mackris also agreed to destroy any copies she might have, too. O’Reilly definitely wanted to make sure no more loofa transcripts would ever be leaked — and to leave Mackris with no evidence of what he’d done. No wonder he was so confident no evidence would come to light.
Oh, but it gets weirder. We’ll use Wemple’s highlighted screenshot of the PDF file here:
Wemple notes he saved the image as “oreillyomg.png,” because it’s not every day that someone agrees that if a third party somehow releases any materials providing evidence of O’Reilly’s misconduct, “all parties will disclaim them as counterfeit or forgeries.” Mackris’s attorneys in the defamation case against O’Reilly, Nancy Erika Smith and Neil Mullin, said in another filing Wednesday that this clause obligated Mackris to
“lie — even in legal proceedings or under oath — if any evidence becomes public, by calling evidence ‘counterfeit’ or ‘forgeries.'”
That’s a heck of a lawyering job by her earlier attorney, Benedict Morelli — whose law firm, as it happens, went on to represent O’Reilly after drawing up the agreement between O’Reilly, Fox News, and Mackris, according to Smith and Mullin. CNN has the details on that subsequent agreement, in which Morelli promised his new bosses that his firm would never ever represent any sexual harassment plaintiffs against them. Maybe one should never trust a lawyer named “Benedict.”
Morelli issued a statement in response, saying that he and his firm had “worked extremely hard to secure a significant financial settlement for” Mackris, and that
The claim that I did not vigorously represent her, or that I represented O’Reilly during or after the settlement process, is absolutely false.
If we’re reading between the lines correctly here, he’s denying that he represented O’Reilly personally. So hooray, he lawyered really good!
And through it all, O’Reilly’s attorneys continue to insist there’s simply nothing to any of the cases against him.
Fred Newman, an attorney representing O’Reilly, said in a statement on Wednesday that “the only reason Bill O’Reilly settled any cases was to protect his children.”
“The settlement agreements were fully negotiated by these plaintiffs who were ably advised by experienced counsel. Confidentiality and arbitration were two critical terms for which Mr. O’Reilly bargained in good faith,” the statement said. “For the past 14 years, Mr. O’Reilly has always respected the agreed confidentiality of the settlement agreements, but now that the provision has been breached, Mr. O’Reilly will be taking all appropriate legal action to enforce the agreements.”
So even though we now see what a raw deal the women agreed to in those settlements, O’Reilly is determined to hold them to the agreements. He is, after all, an honorable man.