Rep. Maxine Waters said on Wednesday that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly "needs to go to jail."
She was responding to a report over the weekend that five women received a total of $13 million in settlement payouts after they accused him of harassment. O'Reilly has not been convicted of any crime.
During an interview on MSNBC, the Democrat criticized President Trump for defending O'Reilly earlier in the day because he himself has said "horrible things about women."
"Don't forget he talked about grabbing women in their private parts," Waters said, before adding, "So they are two of a kind." She also criticized Ivanka Trump, the first daughter and now adviser to Trump, for not doing more to stand up for women and advise Trump against his position on O'Reilly.
An investigation by the New York Times found either O'Reilly or Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid five women a total of $13 million in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations of sexual harassment or other types of inappropriate behavior. The women, not identified in the report, either worked for O'Reilly or appeared on his show. The accusations date at least as far back as 2002.
It was just last summer that Fox News' former chairman, Roger Ailes, resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. At the time, the network said it did not tolerate behavior that "disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment."
She said this "sexual harassment enterprise" at Fox News is "catching up with them," pointing to the dozens of advertisers who have dropped O'Reilly's show, "The O'Reilly Factor."
"They have treated women very badly," she said, before noting that she heard that the Justice Department has opened a case into the matter.
"It shouldn't be in America that you can sexually harass women and then buy your way out of it because you're rich," Waters said. "If they continue to do this in the way that they have done, they need to go to jail. You know, the president's over there talking today about Susan Rice going to jail. They need to go to jail. Bill O'Reilly needs to go to jail."
O'Reilly responded to the report hours after it was published. In a statement posted to his website O'Reilly didn't deny the report, but did say that as a "prominent and controversial" figure he is "vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals."
"Just like other prominent and controversial people, I'm vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity," O'Reilly said. "In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline."
"But most importantly, I'm a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children," he added. "The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me."
O'Reilly recently stepped into a separate controversy involving Waters after he joked on the air about her hair, which he said looked like a "James Brown wig." He later offered a tepid apology.
"I'm a strong black woman and I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined. I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O'Reilly or anybody," Waters said in response to O'Reilly. "And I'd like to say to women out there everywhere, don't allow these right-wing talking heads, these dishonorable people to intimidate you or scare you."