NEW YORK — President Donald Trump on Wednesday weighed in on the recent controversy surrounding Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
In an interview with The New York Times, Trump defended O’Reilly against new revelations that he, Fox News and parent company 21st Century Fox had paid a total of $13 million in settlements to five women who accused him of sexual harassment or verbal abuse.
“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” Trump told the Times. “I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
O’Reilly has denied the merits of all the claims against him, 21st Century Fox said in a statement.
Trump similarly defended former Fox News chief Roger Ailes last year, when Ailes was facing a litany of sexual harassment allegations.
“I think they are unfounded just based on what I’ve read,” Trump said of the accusations against Ailes. “Totally unfounded, based on what I read.”
Ailes, who has denied all of the allegations against him, was forced to resign from Fox News just one week after that interview.
Nine months after Ailes’ departure, Fox News is facing mounting public pressure from accusers, advertisers and women’s rights groups to go further in addressing the allegations against O’Reilly.
More than 20 companies had pulled their advertising from “The O’Reilly Factor” as of Wednesday. Lisa Bloom, the lawyer for one of O’Reilly’s accusers, has called for an independent investigation of Fox News. The National Organization for Women has called for him to be fired.
Meanwhile, many female employees inside Fox News are too scared to speak out about problems in the workplace, fearing that they have no leverage against powerful on-air talents like O’Reilly, current and former network sources have told CNNMoney.
21st Century Fox and Fox News are standing behind O’Reilly. But neither the company nor O’Reilly have addressed the matter since Saturday, when the New York Times first revealed the extent of settlements paid to O’Reilly’s accusers.
Henry Holt, the publisher of O’Reilly’s new book “Old School,” has said it has “no comment at this time” on the allegations against its author.
21st Century Fox is also under federal investigation over its handling of payments made to women who accused Ailes of sexual harassment.