Friday, October 29, 2004

O'Reilly Settles

O'Reilly and his accuser have settled the sexual harassment suit out of court. O'Reilly has also canceled his suit against the accuser:

Citing his wish to shield his family, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly settled a harassment lawsuit brought by a former producer accusing him of graphically discussing sex with her.

"This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again," O'Reilly said on Thursday night's edition of his talk show, "The O'Reilly Factor."

O'Reilly, who is married with two children, also dropped an extortion lawsuit against his accuser and her lawyer. Both sides have agreed to keep the details confidential, O'Reilly's attorney said.

So it's all over. O'Reilly's ratings are up 30%. I wonder how much he paid or if Fox paid anything. The problem of these out-of-court settlements is that they leave the question of guilt open. It's possible to suspect that O'Reilly indeed was guilty of sexual harassment and that he settled because the accuser had tapes of the telephone calls. But it's also possible to suspect that the accuser indeed was after nothing but money, and that the case was weak. Although I find it very unlikely that O'Reilly would have paid anything at all if he had been truly innocent, but that's just me, of course.

The sad thing about this case more generally is the way it makes sexual harassment into an almost-joke, something that lets us giggle over loofahs and falafels. Let's not forget that sexual harassment can be a very upsetting and scary experience, and that it can leave very deep scars in the victim. I know of a case where a woman lost a job because she spoke about the sexual harassment she had experienced, and another one where the sufferer had to have years of therapy after the event (which included receiving extremely violent pornography tapes at her home).

So what is your reaction to the outcome of this case? I hope that it doesn't match this one, caught in one of Eschaton's comments threads:

Bill O'Reily taken down by a woman, forced to concede by a girl.