Public Advocate Letitia James called for investigations into Fox News and Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday, following allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination at the network.
Standing outside of the Fox News headquarters Wednesday evening, James told a crowd of about 50 protesters that the network is “a place where alternative facts have given way to alternative behavior.”
The crowd held signs that said “Work should be a safe space,” and “Rights over ratings,” as James fired up the rally and demanded that O’Reilly be taken off the air.
“This is a man who claims to be the moral voice of America,” James said of O’Reilly. “Yet he has no understanding of the rights of women. He has no business being on television.”
In a letter to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the public advocate demanded an investigation into whether Fox News and O’Reilly discriminated against workers based on their race or sex.
James cited a New York Times report that said O’Reilly and Fox News paid five women to settle sexual harassment claims from 2002 to 2016. She also cited a lawsuit by three black women employees of Fox News who allege that the network’s former senior vice president, Judith Slater, subjected them to “discriminatory statements and conduct” for years.
During Wednesday’s rally, Katherine Siemionko, a lead organizer of the Women’s March, said what is happening at Fox News represents “a sad culture in America.”
“We will not stand for this anymore. Women are united, we will not be divided and we will speak out,” Siemionko said.
James also called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate why Fox News has not disclosed risks related to the lawsuits and any settlements to its shareholders.
“Taken together, the risk to the company’s reputation, as well as the risk that it may lose top talent, viewers, and advertising revenue were material risks that should have been disclosed to shareholders,” James wrote in her letter to the SEC.
She said the multiple lawsuits and settlements involving O’Reilly and Slater, as well as former CEO Roger Ailes, put the network at risk of losing talent, viewers and advertisers, many of whom have already said they will no longer air ads during O’Reilly’s show.
Meanwhile, civil rights lawyer Lisa Bloom issued a letter to the New York State Division of Human Rights, calling for an investigation into the sexual-harassment allegations.
Bloom is representing Wendy Walsh, who accuses O’Reilly of backing down on a promise to get her a job on the network after she rejected his advances in 2013. Walsh first made her story public in a New York Times story published April 1, and proceeded to file a complaint with Fox News’ human resources hotline.
In her letter, Bloom referred to the allegations against O’Reilly and Ailes, saying the network has repeatedly paid women “to remain silent and leave the company while the perpetrators and enablers keep their jobs.”
Twenty-First Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
With Lauren Cook