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Fox News paid to make a sexual harassment allegation against Bill O'Reilly go away

Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

NEW YORK -- Fox News settled a sexual harassment complaint by a former employee in September against its biggest prime-time star, Bill O'Reilly, and the division's co-president, Bill Abernethy.

Former Fox News personality Juliet Huddy claimed in a letter from her lawyers sent last August that her opportunities at the company ended in retaliation for not submitting to sexual advances by O'Reilly that began in 2011. She also said Abernethy had made unwanted advances toward her.

No lawsuit was filed against O'Reilly or Abernethy, who was promoted to his post in August after the letter was received and was signed to a long-term contract following the settlement payment made in September. The agreement was first reported on the website Lawnewz.com.

The settlement shows that the sexual harassment issue continues to shadow Fox News even after the ouster of former Chairman Roger Ailes, who was accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit by former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

The suit prompted 21st Century Fox to launch an internal investigation into Ailes' conduct toward Carlson and other women at Fox News, including Megyn Kelly, the popular anchor who recently announced her move to NBC.

The cable news juggernaut settled that lawsuit in September with a $20 million payment to Carlson. But other women have come forward with allegations, suggesting that sexually inappropriate behavior had been rooted in the culture of the company.

Huddy received a six-figure monetary settlement from the company in return for agreeing not to file suit, according to people familiar with the discussions but not authorized to comment. Fox News denied the claims against O'Reilly and Abernethy.

"Juliet Huddy's letter of intent to sue contained substantial falsehoods which both men vehemently denied," said a statement from Fox News.

Attorneys for Huddy could not be reached for comment.

O'Reilly, 67, is the top-rated personality in all of cable news. His 8 p.m. Eastern time program "The O'Reilly Factor" is the tent pole for the network's prime-time lineup. His current contract with Fox News expires this year.

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