What to know about the Fox News and Bill O'Reilly controversies

Apr 10, 2017 59

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Fox News and its star host Bill O’Reilly are on the defensive after becoming embroiled in new allegations of sexual misconduct and racial discrimination.

Some allegations began last summer and have led to the downfall of Fox News’ former chief, Roger Ailes.

Here’s a breakdown of scandals surrounding the cable news network:

O’Reilly and The New York Times investigation

On April 1, The New York Times published an in-depth investigation that “found a total of five women who have received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation” after making accusations against O’Reilly of “sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior.”

“The agreements,” The Times reported, “totaled about $13 million.”

The Times said that two of the settlements had taken place since the July resignation of Ailes.

It’s important to note that some of the settlements reported in the story were already known and date as far as 2004. ABC News has not been able to independently verify the payouts, as reported by The Times.

However, ABC News reported in February that federal prosecutors in New York City have been conducting a criminal probe of the company to determine if any laws or accounting regulations were violated when it paid money to settle misconduct accusations against Ailes.

“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously. Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News,” 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, said in a statement.

For his part, O’Reilly wrote on his website that he, “like other prominent and controversial people,” is “vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want [him] to pay them to avoid negative publicity.”

“In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline,” O’Reilly wrote.

He said he was “a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way,” and he had “put to rest any controversies to spare [his] children.”

According to O’Reilly, the “worst part” of his job was “being a target for those who would harm me and my employer,” and his “primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.”

Dozens of companies have since yanked their advertisements from O’Reilly’s show following news of the settlements, potentially hurting Fox’s bottom line.

The O’Reilly Factor brings in more revenue than any other show on Fox News, as well as its main competitors CNN and MSNBC, according to Kantar Media, a market research firm.

In an attempt to stem the tide, Paul Rittenberg, Fox News’ executive vice president of advertising sales, said in a statement: “We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about the O’Reilly Factor. At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.”

More than 50 companies had withdrawn their advertisements from the program as of last Thursday. At least one company, Rosland Capital, is sticking with O’Reilly. “We have no plans to change our advertising strategy,” it said.

Meanwhile, Wendy Walsh, a regular guest on O’Reilly’s show, spoke to ABC News about her allegations first detailed in The Times’ investigation.

Walsh said that she had received a dinner invite from O’Reilly after she began appearing in a regular Thursday night segment on his show.

“He brought it up first as soon as we sat down to dinner, saying, ‘We’d like to make you a contributor,’” Walsh said.

“As we walked past the hostess stand at the restaurant, he turned right towards the bedrooms and I turned left towards the bar and he caught up with me and said, ‘No, no, come back to my suite,'” Walsh said.

According to Walsh, O’Reilly became hostile after she declined his offer.

She said that she only appeared on the show a few more times.

It hasn’t been all that bad for O’Reilly.

More than 3.6 million viewers tuned into his show on Monday, April 3, followed by 3.7 million on Tuesday, April 4, according to TVNewser, an industry tracking news site.

Then on Wednesday, O’Reilly got a presidential defense: Donald Trump, sitting in the oval office, told The New York Times that he believed O’Reilly should have fought the accusations.

Characterizing the TV host as “a person I know well” and “a good person,” Trump said he didn’t “think Bill did anything wrong.”

This wasn’t the first time that Trump has waded into allegations of sexual misconduct at Fox News.

Days after Ailes’ July resignation, Trump defended the network chief, calling him “a very, very good person.”

By Monday, Fox News said that it had asked mega law firm Paul Weiss to probe at least one complaint made against O’Reilly.

“21st Century Fox investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters,” a 21st Century Fox spokesman said.

Which complaint or complaints the law firm is investigating is not clear.

Last Tuesday, a 21st Century Fox spokesman said that “no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously.”

In a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, Wendy Walsh — one of the women named in The Times investigation — and her attorney, Lisa Bloom, are seen calling the Fox News hotline to file a complaint.

On Sunday, Bloom appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources program, where she said she had received “a return phone call from a couple of attorneys who represent Fox News and they said they are indeed going to do an investigation based on Wendy’s complaint.”

“I’m told they are taking it seriously,” Bloom said.

Bloom did not reference the Weiss firm by name in her CNN appearance.

A spokesman for O’Reilly, Mark Fabiani, released a statement saying: “Paul Weiss is already retained by the company to look into all hotline calls, so it’s inaccurate to say that Paul Weiss has been brought in specifically for this matter. In short, there is nothing special about the way this hotline call is now being handled.”

Paul Weiss was retained by Fox News last summer to investigate claims made against Ailes.

Brown, Wright and Douglas allege racial discrimination

Aside from the O’Reilly scandal, Fox was forced to defend itself against two other sets of accusations.

Three Fox News employees — Tichaona Brown, Tabrese Wright and Monica Douglas — filed a lawsuit claiming that they were subject to “appalling discrimination” and “years-long relentless racial animus” at the hands of a former executive at the news company.

The women, one former and two current employees of Fox News’ payroll department, spoke to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America about their alleged treatment, which they characterized as “appalling” and “insulting.”

Among other claims, Brown and Wright alleged in the lawsuit that Judith Slate, a former vice president of accounting at Fox, mocked “stereotyped speech and complained that black employees mispronounce” certain words.

Douglas, who was not party to an earlier lawsuit, joined the two other women in an amended lawsuit filed this month, claiming she “was subjected to the same racially discriminatory treatment experienced by Ms. Brown and Ms. Wright.”

Asked about the lawsuit, a Fox News spokesperson told ABC News that the network has hired a new head of human resources, and that it fired Slater on Feb. 28. The new executive vice president of HR, Kevin Lord, was appointed on Dec. 14, 2016, according to a company press release.

The company said in a statement: “We take complaints of this nature very seriously and took prompt and effective remedial action in terminating Judy Slater before Ms. Brown, Ms. Wright and Ms. Douglas sued in court and even before Ms. Wright and Ms. Douglas complained through their lawyer. There is no place for conduct like this at Fox News, which is why Ms. Slater was fired.”

Attempts by ABC News to reach Slater for comment were not immediately successful Tuesday.

Commentator Julie Roginsky allegations

On April 3, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky filed a lawsuit against the network claiming misconduct on the part of Ailes, the company and current co-president Bill Shine.

Among other allegations, Roginsky claimed that Ailes encouraged her to hook up with “older, married, conservative men,” and that she faced retaliation when she “refused to engage in a sexual relationship with Ailes.”

She also claims that she suffered retaliation at the hands of Shine.

Fox News declined to comment on the lawsuit, while Ailes’ lawyer, Susan Estrich, said that “Roginsky’s description of meetings that she supposedly had with Roger Ailes are total hogwash.”

“Mr. Ailes vociferously denies her allegations,” Estrich added.

Previous and ongoing controversies

Allegations of impropriety on the part of Ailes — who was pressured into resigning last summer after facing sexual misconduct claims — continue to dog the company nine months after his departure. (Ailes and Fox denied allegations at the time.)

Gretchen Carlson’s allegations

Ailes downfall was largely brought on by former network star Gretchen Carlson.

Carlson departed the network on June 23 and shortly afterward filed a lawsuit alleging that Ailes “sabotaged” her career after she “refused his sexual advances,” and that her job was terminated in retaliation for rebuffing him and complaining to him about sexual harassment.

Fox News and Ailes denied the allegations at the time as “false” and “retaliatory…for the network’s decision not to renew her contract.”

Other women are believed to have privately supported Carlson in interviews with investigators.

Ailes resigned on July 21. Media reports suggested he received a severance package valued at about $40 million.

“Within just two weeks of her filing a lawsuit against Roger Ailes, Gretchen Carlson’s extraordinary courage has caused a seismic shift in the media world,” Carlson’s lawyer said.

Among those backing Carlson was top-rated network star Megyn Kelly, who later told ABC News that Ailes “tried to kiss me three times [in his office], so I rejected that, and when I rejected that, he asked me when my contract was up.”

“As soon as I left his office, I called a lawyer, and I did bring the matter to a supervisor at Fox News,” she told Good Morning America in November.

Carlson finally settled her case in September in a deal that a source told ABC News was valued at $20 million.

Andrea Tantaros

Carlson and Kelly were not alone in taking on the former network chief.

A lesser known, but regular figure on the network, Andrea Tantaros, filed a suit against Ailes in August — about a month after his resignation.

In her suit, she claimed that the network “operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny,” which saw her subject to alleged sexual harassment by former Fox News boss Roger Ailes as well as by former Sen. Scott Brown.

In court filings responding to the suit, Fox News said that Tantaros “is not a victim; she is an opportunist” and that her “unverified” lawsuit “bears all the hallmarks of the ‘wannabe.’”

In an email to the Boston Globe, Brown said: “Her statement about our limited on air, green room interactions are false.”

In October, Tantaros told Good Morning America that she hoped to bring “accountability” to the network.

“Fox News has plenty of money. They’ve bought off a lot of women. What they don’t have is accountability,” Tantaros said.

Tantaros’ case has been ordered to go to arbitration by a court, her lawyer Judd Burstein told ABC News on Thursday.

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More flights canceled as ongoing problems plague Delta Air Lines

Apr 8, 2017 74

@vanfullapuppies/Twitter(ATLANTA) — Delta Air Lines is still struggling to recover after severe weather caused the airline to cancel thousands of flights, leaving passengers– including many spring break and holiday travelers– stranded.

The airline is attributing the major disruptions to major storms that moved through Georgia on Wednesday, hitting Delta’s busiest hub in Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

On Saturday morning, Delta said about 275 flights had been canceled and that additional cancellations were possible.

“We are grateful for your patience and want you to know that we, as always, learn from these experiences,” Delta Chief Operating Officer Gil West said to customers in a statement on Thursday. “While we can’t control the weather, we understand the resulting recovery has not been ideal and we apologize for that.”

Many passengers took their frustrations with Delta to social media and #DeltaMeltdown went viral.

Josh Preston, a Delta customer, said he was issued two more tickets after a flight cancellation, and “boarded three separate aircraft…all of which either were ground-stopped or never left the gate.”

Other customers online joked that renting a car would be faster than traveling with the airline. Passenger Mallory Bergeson said she decided to rent a car after she was rescheduled on different flights for five days in a row.

Delta said a travel waiver was extended through the weekend and the airline advised passengers to check Delta.com for updates on flights.

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US stocks close slightly lower after jobs report, Syria strike

Apr 7, 2017 63

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wall Street closed slightly lower Friday as investors digested the U.S. airstrike in Syria and a weaker-than-expected March jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 6.85 (-0.03 percent) to finish at 20,656.10.

The Nasdaq gave up 1.14 (-0.02 percent) to close at 5,877.81, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,355.54, down 1.95 (-0.08 percent) from its open.

Crude oil prices were nearly 1 percent higher; over $52 a barrel.

Jobs Report: Despite predictions from economists that the U.S. would add 180,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department announced in a report Friday that only 98,000 jobs were created in March. On a positive note, the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent, the lowest in a decade.

Winners and Losers: After the U.S. missile strikes in Syria, defense contractors were up Friday including Lockheed Martin Corporation and Northrop Grumman Corporation– both 1 percent higher at the close.

Eastman Kodak Co. said it would hold onto its Prosper inkjet business after announcing last year the company had plans to sell it. Shares sunk 5 percent on Friday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

US stocks close slightly lower after jobs report, Syria strike

Apr 7, 2017 66

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wall Street closed slightly lower Friday as investors digested the U.S. airstrike in Syria and a weaker-than-expected March jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 6.85 (-0.03 percent) to finish at 20,656.10.

The Nasdaq gave up 1.14 (-0.02 percent) to close at 5,877.81, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,355.54, down 1.95 (-0.08 percent) from its open.

Crude oil prices were nearly 1 percent higher; over $52 a barrel.

Jobs Report: Despite predictions from economists that the U.S. would add 180,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department announced in a report Friday that only 98,000 jobs were created in March. On a positive note, the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent, the lowest in a decade.

Winners and Losers: After the U.S. missile strikes in Syria, defense contractors were up Friday including Lockheed Martin Corporation and Northrop Grumman Corporation– both 1 percent higher at the close.

Eastman Kodak Co. said it would hold onto its Prosper inkjet business after announcing last year the company had plans to sell it. Shares sunk 5 percent on Friday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

March Hiring Slower; Economy Adds Just 98K Jobs

Apr 7, 2017 68

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — U.S. hiring slowed last month, according to the government’s latest report out Friday. American employers added 98,000 jobs in March, far fewer than economists were expecting.

Enough Americans found work to drop the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, the lowest in a decade and a sign the labor market is returning to a more normal pace.

There have been fewer unemployed Americans for businesses to choose from and an increase in wages may be needed to attract talent. Average hourly earnings last month increased by 5 cents.

There were employment gains in business services, health care and mining, while the retail sector suffered the biggest losses.

J.J. Kinahan from TD Ameritrade told ABC News the jump in mining jobs is one that can be credited to the Trump administration, which has shown support for the coal industry.

“Mining, an area that we saw bottom out in October of last year, created 11,000 jobs, so there’s an area of growth that I think they can certainly point to,” Kinahan said.

Thursday’s U.S. strike on Syria may have also impacted Friday’s jobs report.

“Under normal circumstances, this [report] might be viewed a little bit more favorably, but when we take into consideration the Syria situation, that geopolitical situation is weighing on the market a little bit,” Kinahan said.

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Hyundai, Kia recall 1.2M vehicles in US over engine issue

Apr 7, 2017 63

Hyundai(WASHINGTON) — Hyundai and Kia are recalling approximately 1.2 million vehicles in the U.S. over an issue with the engines that may cause them to seize, increasing the risk of a crash.

Notices from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that the vehicles affected include Kia’s 2011-2014 Optima, 2012-2014 Sorento and 2011-2013 Sportage; and Hyundai’s 2013-2014 Sonata and Santa Fe Sport.

Both notices say that “machining errors during the engine manufacturing process may cause premature bearing wear within the engine,” which “may result in the engine seizing, increasing the risk of a crash.”

Overall, NHTSA says Kia is recalling 618,160 vehicles, while Hyundai is recalling 572,000.

Hyundai’s recall is scheduled to begin on May 19, while Kia’s is slated for May 25. Affected owners will be notified by the automakers and will be able to get their vehicles fixed free of charge.

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Tax Tip: Filing an extension

Apr 7, 2017 62

iStock/ThinkstockMaybe you panicked because you realized you owe Uncle Sam when you thought you were getting a refund. Maybe it took a former employer a long time to get your statements to you. Or maybe you just procrastinated.

For whatever reason, you got a late start and now you realize you won’t be able to file your income tax return by the April 18 deadline.

“I think it’s smart to file an extension and not rush to finish your tax return,” says accountant Janice Hayman.

She says you can get an extension from the IRS but it’s only to file your taxes, not to pay them — you still need to do that on time.

“If you pay it with the extension and it ends up being an over payment, you’ll get that money refunded once you do file,” Hayman explains.

A tax preparer can file your extension for you or you can do it yourself. You can find the instructions on the IRS’ website, IRS.gov.

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Rihanna now designing high-end jewelry line for Chopard

Apr 7, 2017 60

Getty Images via ABC(NEW YORK) — She’s designed sneakers for Puma, sunglasses for Dior, footwear for Manolo Blahnik and even socks for Stance. But now, get ready for Rihanna’s jewelry line.

Women’s Wear Daily reports that the singer has co-designed a high-end collection of one-of-a-kind items for Chopard, which will launch at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It’s called “Rihanna Loves Chopard,” and it’s inspired by Rihanna’s island home of Barbados.

In June, a nine-piece capsule collection of limited-edition fine jewelry will be available at Chopard boutiques internationally. The line is made of 18-carat Fairmined-certified rose gold and also includes green ceramic, and you can pre-order it starting Friday at Chopard.com.

An ad campaign will launch this month.

Rihanna already has given us a sneak peek at some of the bling: at the Grammy Awards, she wore multicolored floral chandelier earrings and a marquise-cut diamond ring. In March, when she appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, she wore “transformable” diamond earrings.

As for why Rihanna is launching the line at Cannes, it’s because she’ll be there to promote her role in the upcoming Luc Besson sci-film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

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