LEGAL ESSAYS II
HLA Hart I
HLA Hart II
Hart and Love I
Hart and Love II
Ronald Dworkin I
Dep. Rel. Revocation
Dep. Revocation II
Dep. Revocation III
Classical Rhetoric I
Legal Rhetoric II
Emotional Distress I
Emotional Distress II
Modern Legal Ethics
Legal Ethics II
Death Pen. Costs
Death Pen. Costs II
Mitigation Ev. II
Tomic v. Diocese
Dolquist v. Heartland
Pro Hac Vice Revoc.
The Lawsuit Against Bill O'Reilly
Bill Long 12/23/06
Sexual Harassment Allegations by Andrea Mackris
I recall in the Fall of 2004, just before the Presidential elections, that a lawsuit for sexual harassment was filed against Fox "star" Bill O'Reilly. I recall, also, that the suit was settled within a few weeks, and life then seemed to go on as normal. Indeed, O'Reilly boasted after the lawsuit was settled that his ratings actually went up 30% during that period, perhaps due to viewer loyalty or sympathy. The purpose of this essay is to introduce you to the actual complaint filed against O'Reilly, stating the allegations and causes of action. In fact what occurred was that the O'Reilly show associate producer, Andrea Mackris, probably collected several million dollars from O'Reilly in the late Oct. 2004 settlement of the case. In fact, also, what has happened with O'Reilly's ratings is that they have fallen more than 35% in two years since the lawsuit. At that time he had an audience share of 3.1 million per day. Now he is down to just over 2.0 million viewers. My thesis regarding this decline, shared increasingly by other pundits, is that 2006 has been in fact a watershed year, where America finally realized that the religious and political right is increasingly doing damage to America, and O'Reilly is the leading spokesman for that cause. Further reflection on that theme is beyond the scope of this essay. Let's descend into the dirt of the complaint's allegations at this point.
The only thing you should know now is that a legal complaint is not the same thing as legal proof. It consists of unstubstantiated allegations. Yet, because of the rapidity of settlement, the vividness of the allegations and the likelihood that Mackris had actual tapes of O'Reilly behaving badly, these allegations really did have some traction.
In a 105-paragraph complaint (22 pages), in which she argued five causes of action (quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile workplace sexual harassement were the major ones), Mackris said that she worked for as Associate Producer for Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" from 2000 to January 2004, when she left for CNN, and then from July 2004 until just before filing the lawsuit in Oct. 2004. The "big event" that provoked the lawsuit was Bill O'Reilly's learning in May 2002 that Mackris had broken up wiht her fiance. Shortly thereafter, she alleges, O'Reilly invited her to dinner, where he gave her some unsolicitedrelational and sexual advice (pars. 33-35). According to Mackris, O'Reilly said that she should attend various charity events, go to bars to try to pick up "23 year old" guys (she was 33) and do what she liked without thinking twice about the consequences. Then, she alleged that O'Reilly's demeanor changed, his eyes "glazed" and he began asking her humiliating sexual questions. I don't have to repeat all of them for you to get the picture. He asked her whether she had a vibrator. When she didn't respond, O'Reilly regaled her with a story about how he had advised another woman to purchase a vibrator, and had taught that woman how to masturbate while telling her stories over the phone (par. 36). Mackris said she wasn't interested, but O'Reilly persisted. He told her about a time in Bali where a "short little brown woman" and he had an encounter, and that he would be pleased to tell Mackris this and other stories.
I think you get the "drift" of O'Reilly's alleged actions. But there is more. The next year, when a college friend from the U of Missouri was visiting Mackris, O'Reilly joined them for dinner, suggested a threesome and told them that they needed to be trained so that they could be equipped and ready to handle a "real man" when he showed up in their lives. He, graciously, offered "lessons" to them. I am sure, though the complaint doesn't say so, that he would give them these lessons for free. What a guy.
One particular paragraph in the complaint (42) deserves quotation in full:
"During the course of this dinner, in approximately May 2003, Defendant BILL O'REILLY, without solicitation or invite, regaled Plaintiff and her friend with stories concerning the loss of his virginity to a girl in a car at JFK, two "really wild" Scandanavian airline stewardesses he had gotten together with, and a "girl" at a sex show in Thailand who had shown him things in a backroom that "blew [his] mind." Defendant then stated he was going to Italy to meet the Pope, that his pregnant wife was staying at home with his daughter, and implied he was looking forward to some extra-marital dalliances with the "hot" Italian women."
Well, you get the drift of the allegations. There are many even salacious ones later in the complaint. Suffice it to say that O'Reilly was accused of repeated attempts to take advantage of his position as Mackris' supervisor to wheedle sexual favors out of her (though he seemed that he would have been content with phone sex). Mackris left Fox, only to return six months later (July 2004). Some may say, "Why did she return if she knew this was O'Reilly's m.o.?" But this is the wrong question to ask. The right question is "Why was this O'Reilly's m.o?" She was a vulnerable woman, near the beginning of her career. O'Reilly was quite conscious of the fact that he could "break" someone's career. Thus, she decided to hold her breath, so to speak, and continue to try to work at FOX.
We are certainly not to be judged by our life's worst moment (a lesson that O'Reilly himself might take to heart as he interviews people who also have made dumb mistakes); but we should be humbled by some of those worst moments. They are teaching moments, given to us to reflect on our human condition, our own need for forgiveness and the importance of developing a larger and more tolerant view of others' mistakes. You only wish that this lesson had "stuck" with Bill O'Reilly.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long