After the New York Times reported last weekend that Fox and Bill O’Reilly had settled five times with women who’d accused the TV personality of sexual harassment and other lewd behavior, no one was shocked that President Trump defended him, calling O’Reilly “a good person,” who, in his opinion, didn’t do anything wrong and shouldn’t have settled. This is one of the few areas in life Trump probably knows a lot about, because he has also allegedly faced his fair share of rejection by women he inappropriately touched or commented upon.
Fox seems to think so too, at least privately, though for them Trump’s more of a cautionary tale than a shining example. According to The Hollywood Reporter, 21st Century Fox (Fox News’s parent company) has been using the 2005 grab-her-by-the-pussy Access Hollywood tape of Trump and Billy Bush in its sexual harassment seminars as an example of how Fox staffers should not act in the workplace. A recent seminar attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, detailed the portion of the presentation where the tape was discussed:
“They went through the scenario of the tape, why it was harassment and why it’s something you should report…There was an audible gasp in the room, like, ‘Can you believe this is happening?’ Trump was defended on Fox News after that tape came out.... Someone joked about getting fired for harassment and wondering if the defense could be, ‘We were only told a behavior was bad once in a seminar,’ but Fox News said it was ‘just locker room talk’ over and over again.”
A human resources guy also joked during the presentation about how the department handled harassment cases throughout the company, except at Fox News, so there would be no mention of Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly. No one in attendance knew whether to laugh or cry. “It was a joke,” explained the anonymous source, “but it did not play well in the room.”
When new details emerged about O’Reilly’s settlements last week, Fox unabashedly defended their grossly entitled golden goose, even as advertisers fled from his primetime program in droves. On Wednesday, ABC News reported that 52 companies—including Advil, Mercedes, and BMW—had pulled ads in the last week. So, while Fox may theoretically frown upon sexual harassment in the workplace, this does not appear to match its handling of major scandals within the company at all (the one through line is Fox trying to cover its own ass). To quote our president, “When you’re a star, they let you do it.”