Friday April 21, 2017

'I had to speak': Wendy Walsh addresses Fox News' Bill O'Reilly allegations

Wendy Walsh's allegation against Bill O'Reilly 5:49

Listen 20:02

Read story transcript

Fox News parted ways with controversial host Bill O'Reilly on April 19, "after a thorough and careful review" of sexual harassment allegations, the network said in a statement.

The company ended its relationship following a New York Times report that five women had received payouts totaling about $13 million (US) from O'Reilly or 21st Century Fox for not speaking out about, or taking legal action over, their allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behaviour.

When others couldn't speak out, Canadian Wendy Walsh went public with her own allegations of sexual harassment against the former Fox News host.

After hearing the news Fox ended ties with O'Reilly, the radio and television commentator says she has mixed feelings.

"I'm a human being and I'm a woman, and I'm not the kind of personality to dance on somebody's corporate grave, " Walsh tells The Current's Friday host Dave Seglins. 

"On the other hand I'm also a woman and I'm a mother whose daughters will be entering the workplace and so I feel also kind of happy." 

Walsh says it was important to go on record, in principle, as a way forward for the next generation.

"My daughters and her college-age friends were young strong feminists who said, 'of course tell this story.' And all the older women had sort of normalized this behavior. They spent a lifetime in the workforce navigating around these kinds of land mines and they mostly shrug their shoulders," Walsh points out. 

Fox News O Reilly Harassment

Bill O'Reilly, who has been off the air on vacation since April 11, was planning to return to host his show on April 24 before Fox News ended ties with the host. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

"It was this generational divide that bothered me because I'm like we're supposed to be leading our daughters — not them us."

O'Reilly said in a statement after his departure from Fox that "it's tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today." 

While none of the allegations against O'Reilly have been proven in court, Walsh takes exception to the word "unfounded" in his statement.

"I made an official claim to the Fox sexual harassment hotline in the last few weeks," Walsh says. 

"They had four scary attorneys grill me for two hours. I provided them with email evidence. They contacted five of my colleagues and friends from 2013 who I told at the time — including my entertainment attorney who I told immediately after."

"They did their investigation and rather than saying this is unfounded, they said 'we have found that it's time to fire him."

Walsh tells Seglins that she's not talking legal action because she says,"this is what allows me to be free and have a voice."

"When I found out he had silenced five women with a confidentiality agreement, the mother bear in me came out and I had to speak for them. Far more egregious things happened to them in my opinion," Walsh says.

"So you know I'm happy to just keep on talking. I don't need any money. I'll be just fine."

Listen to the full discussion at the top of this web post — including a look at what will become of Fox News.

This segment was produced by The Current's Samira Mohyeddin and Sam Colbert.