A day before Bill O’Reilly was fired, his attorney Marc E. Kasowitz put out a statement that claimed the Fox News host had been “subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.” It went on to say that his lawyers had uncovered “evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons,” and this “irrefutable” evidence would be “put forth shortly.”
A source in O’Reilly’s camp told The Wall Street Journal that the advertiser boycott of The O’Reilly Factor was being driven by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters and Democratic fundraiser Mary Pat Bonner, but so far no evidence has been put forth by O’Reilly’s team.
On Thursday, however, we got a look at how the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman was planning to defend O’Reilly when one of his attorneys forwarded an internal email exchange to Politico. According to reporter Joe Pompeo, they said it had been sent by mistake.
The exchange reveals that on Tuesday O’Reilly and his team were debating whether to show the Murdochs, who own 21st Century Fox, an April 13 email from Bonner announcing two conference calls with Media Matters president Angelo Carusone on Thursday and Friday. Bonner and Carusone planned to discuss the “success” of their campaign to get advertisers to pull out of The O’Reilly Factor, and “our plans moving forward.”
Here’s how O’Reilly told his audience about his “vacation.”
It’s possible that O’Reilly’s team does in fact have other evidence of a smear campaign, but it’s unclear why they thought the conference calls might sway the Murdochs. As Politico notes, activist groups were openly urging advertisers to pull out of O’Reilly’s show using the hashtag #StopOReilly, and Carusone discussed Media Matters’ effort to oust the host in a Politico report published earlier this month.
Carusone issued this statement:
So, Bill O’Reilly’s last ditch effort to save his job was to run to Glenn Beck, dust off the old chalkboard and conjure a conspiracy? lol. Nothing nefarious here. Media Matters’ efforts were very public. We’re a nonprofit and the call was to ask our supporters to help make sure we could dig in on this for the long haul. But O’Reilly got fired beforehand. At least this explains why Glenn Beck launched a short-lived counter boycott yesterday morning against the companies that dropped O’Reilly.
It appears O’Reilly was against showing the Bonner email to the Murdochs, but not because he thought it would be ineffective. “If we show to Fox tomorrow, word will get out and the Thursday call may be cancelled,” he wrote on April 18.
“So no formal sending to Rupert until after the call,” O’Reilly said, adding, “You all should know that I will not put up with much more from FNC.”
O’Reilly did not have to put up with much more from Fox News, because he was fired the next day.
Several outlets reported on Thursday that O’Reilly, who had just inked a new four-year contract, received a severance payment of up to $25 million, which was equivalent to one year of his salary. The New York Times noted that between O’Reilly’s severance, the $40 million former Fox News chief Roger Ailes received when he left the network nine months ago, and settlement payments, sexual harassment allegations have cost 21st Century Fox more than $85 million — and the vast majority was “paid to the men who were ousted because of the allegations.”
This post was updated to include Carusone’s statement.
O’Reilly has made some alarmingly sexist comments on the air.