MANHATTAN (CN) – A little more than a year after the New York Times reported ex-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly settled multiple cases of sexual harassment, a New York federal judge ordered disclosure of the agreements pointing to evidence of a cover-up against three women at the network.
“Defendant O’Reilly has not even come close to rebutting this First Amendment presumption [of access to court documents],” U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts wrote in a 16-page opinion on Tuesday.
“O’Reilly only refers to generalized ‘privacy interests,’ ‘embarrassing conduct’ and the overarching policy goals of maintaining confidentiality in private agreements,” her ruling continues. “He does not articulate what privacy interests he holds, or how redactions or sealing would be narrowly tailored to achieve those interests.”
Late last year, former Fox News junior producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein brought the lawsuit that led to the ruling, accusing “The O’Reilly Factor” host of defamation when he denied the revelations that sank his show.
The Factor’s ex-producer Andrea Mackris and former Fox Business Network host Rebecca Gomez Diamond joined the suit.
The women’s settlements and arbitration agreements with O’Reilly from 2002 to 2011 came to light for the first time Tuesday in the wake of Batts’ ruling.
The agreements forced all three women to provide all “audio recordings, written materials…, computer files, backup dates, and any and all other data compilations” to O’Reilly.
“Notably, the agreement requires Ms. Mackris to lie – even in legal proceedings or under oath – if any evidence becomes public, by calling valid evidence ‘counterfeit’ or ‘forgeries,’” their attorney Neil Mullin wrote in a 25-page memo.
While enforcing the women’s silence, O’Reilly went on an extraordinary offensive attacking their credibility, Mullin said.
“For seven months, O’Reilly maligned plaintiffs as liars, extortionists and political hit-women, calling their harassment claims ‘meritless,’ ‘unfounded,’ ‘politically and financially motivated,’ ‘garbage,’ ‘bullshit,’ and ‘crap,’ while maintaining that he and his ‘legal team’ had ‘shocking evidence’ of the ‘truth,’” the attorney continued.
“The breach of the arbitration agreements’ confidentiality provisions was especially corrupt and material because O’Reilly claimed or implied publicly that plaintiffs had no evidence of wrong-doing while actually knowing that he had insisted in the settlement agreements that all three plaintiffs provide or destroy all of the physical evidence of his harassment of them,” Mullin’s brief states.
O’Reilly’s attorney Andrew Bourne, from the Manhattan office of Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney, did not immediately respond to an email request for comment after business hours.
The original New York Times report disclosed that O’Reilly paid five women a total of $13 million for their silence. Three of them are the subject of today’s rulings and legal briefs, which also name Fox News as a defendant.
Fox’s attorney Kevin Baine, from the Washington-based firm Williams & Connolly, did not immediately return an email request for comment.
Ex-anchor Laurie Dhue filed a fourth and separate lawsuit against O’Reilly late last month.