• Ex-Fox News host battling defamation claims from three women • Judge throws out O’Reilly bid to seal settlement agreements
Former Fox News employees say there should be no blackout on their defamation lawsuit against Bill O’Reilly, who left the network amid a sexual-harassment scandal.
They say the former Fox pundit’s bloviating about the women who complained about his behavior voided any requirement in settlement agreements for disputes to be resolved in arbitration -- out of the view of the public.
Former producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein sued O’Reilly and Fox News in December, accusing both of defaming her with comments they made after the New York Times reported the former talk-show host and his employer paid about $45 million to six women who had accused him of harassment. Former producer Andrea Mackris and former contributor Rebecca Gomez Diamond joined the case later that month.
O’Reilly and Fox News said the women received millions of dollars and now “shamelessly disclaim” their agreements to have their claims heard out of court and keep them confidential. They asked the judge to order Mackris’s and Diamond’s claims to be heard in arbitration or to throw out the lawsuit.
On Tuesday, the former employees asked the judge to deny O’Reilly’s request, saying he has “blatantly” violated the confidentiality requirements of the pacts.
“O’Reilly’s breaches profoundly prejudiced the plaintiffs -- instead of being drawn into a confidential arbitration proceeding, they have been subjected to months of defamation,” lawyers for the women said in a court filing.
Also on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts denied O’Reilly’s request to seal Mackris’s and Diamond’s settlement agreements, saying he hasn’t shown how his privacy would be violated if the pacts aren’t kept secret.
“O’Reilly only refers to generalized ‘privacy interests,’ ‘embarrassing conduct,’ and the overarching policy goals of maintaining confidentiality in private agreements,” Batts said. “O’Reilly has failed to present compelling countervailing factors that could overcome the presumption of public access to the agreements in question.”
The case is Bernstein v. O’Reilly, 17-cv-9483, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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