Former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly reportedly paid $32 million to settle sexual harassment allegations against him at the beginning of 2017, a month before he signed a new contract with the network.
That settlement came just a few months before O'Reilly was toppled from his post leading the most popular show in cable news. Fox News executives — chiefly Rupert Murdoch and his two sons — sought to retain O'Reilly as a focal point of the network, after losing star anchor Megyn Kelly to NBC.
Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledged that it knew about the complaints against O'Reilly when the deal was struck, the New York Times reported. The deal was previously not known publicly.
Sources told the Times that the allegations included sexual harassment, a nonconsentual sexual relationship, and sexually explicit material, including gay pornography, sent to the woman.
That $32 million is a substantial increase to the harassment settlements that were previously paid out on his behalf, per reports. In April, the Times reported that O'Reilly's accusers had received "about $13 million" in hush money. O'Reilly denies any wrong-doing and maintains that he is the "target" of a smear campaign.
"It's politically and financially motivated," he said in response to the latest settlement report. "And we can prove it with shocking information, but I'm not going to sit here in a courtroom for a year and a half and let my kids get beaten up every single day of their lives by a tabloid press that would sit there, and you know it."
Nevertheless, the Murdochs opted to release him in April, despite the recent renewal of a contract worth $25 million annually, after reports of other sexual harassment settlements surfaced publicly. "After a thorough and careful review of allegations against him, the Company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Mr. O'Reilly will not return to the Fox News Channel," 21st Century Fox said at the time.