Former Fox News Stars Dish on O’Reilly and Network’s ‘Minefield’ of Harassment
In the wake of Bill O’Reilly’s alleged serial sleaze finally ending his two-decade career at Fox News, several of the network’s former on-air stars have opened up about their own experience with the top-rated gasbag.
Former frequent O’Reilly Factor guest and Fox contributor Margaret Hoover described working to never be alone with O’Reilly, given his penchant for inappropriate behavior. Her CNN colleague Alisyn Camerota—a former host of Fox & Friends Weekend—explained how sexual harassment at Fox “wasn’t the half of it.” And Kirsten Powers, another ex-Fox Newser now at CNN, recalled complaining about O’Reilly’s lecherous behavior and being told to simply accept Bill as a relic of the old-school workplace.
Appearing Wednesday evening on Anderson Cooper’s program, Powers relayed a tense story from early in her tenure at Fox News.
“I was on-air with Margaret Hoover—we were on every Monday—and he got Margaret's name wrong and she said, ‘Get my name right.’ He said, ‘I'm sorry, there's a lot of blondes in this operation, I can't keep you straight.’ And at the end of the segment, he said, ‘Thank you for your blondeness.’”
Powers complained about that incident to The O’Reilly Factor’s executive producer David Tabacoff, who, she recalled, told her, “Well, you know Bill. There's nothing we can do about it. He’s a throwback, he’s kind of an Archie Bunker.” He checked with O’Reilly, however, and informed Powers that—surprise—“he’s not going to apologize.”
She elevated her grievance to her own boss, who similarly told her, “It’s Bill, there’s nothing we can do.” And then Roger Ailes, too, allegedly confessed to her: “It's Bill, he's a jerk, nobody likes him. You know Bill, he likes to put up dirty pictures and ask pretty girls to talk about them.”
Ailes reportedly added: “I don't like him, but he makes so much money there's nothing I can do.”
Thursday morning on New Day, Hoover—who is the wife of Daily Beast EIC John Avlon—said how that incident and others “makes you feel like you’re there as a blonde backdrop for O’Reilly’s opinions and not a political analyst or a person in their own right.”
She added: “That was, frankly, pretty common an experience at Fox News for me with Bill O’Reilly.”
Hoover noted that while she was never explicitly sexually harassed by O’Reilly, “there were moments that were very uncomfortable with him, and I had to navigate a minefield… to make sure that I was never in an experience or a situation where I felt vulnerable.”
According to Hoover, O’Reilly would frequently criticize the physical appearance of his female guests—”from the length of my eyelashes to the color of my lip gloss.” She recollected getting a “dress for success” dressing-down from O’Reilly in which he told her to “dress better” on his show.
“There was a very clear message about what was acceptable to appear on-air—both from what you said at Fox News and what you wore at Fox News,” she concluded.
New Day host Camerota agreed.
“You and I have talked about this in private, we may as well talk about it in public,” she said. “We both worked there for a long time… I had an experience, more than one, with Roger Ailes. But that wasn’t the half of it. The real harassment was emotional harassment. Roger could be a bully, he called people names, and it was that feeling of not ever wanting to ever run afoul of him which was the chilling effect.”
All three ex-Fox personalities suggested the culture of sexual harassment ran deeper than just O’Reilly and Ailes.
“Many of the executives who knew about this behavior, who were complicit in this behavior are still there,” Hoover exclaimed. “All of the senior leadership is the same… The culture [Alisyn] and I just described is still there because the executives are still there.”
“There was no hotline. I can’t underscore this enough,” Camerota scoffed at the suggestion that Fox executives ever openly offered a method for reporting harassment. “If a hotline is a secret, it doesn’t work.”
Powers, too, lamented the culture that enabled inappropriate behavior. “It just spoke volumes that I had to handle it on my own,” she lamented, “that there was nobody willing to say anything to [O’Reilly] to say you can't treat one of our political analysts this way.”