MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“Who’s Looking Out for You?” is the title of a best-selling book by Bill O’Reilly. It seems that he was so busy looking out for you, me and everyone else, that he may have forgotten to look out for himself.
The award-winning host of the Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” has been accused of sexual harassment by Andrea Mackris, an associate producer for his television program.
In a 22-page complaint filed Oct. 13 with the Supreme Court of New York, Mackris alleges that on numerous occasions O’Reilly introduced sexually explicit discussions into their conversations. Mackris claims these inappropriate incidents took place in person as well as via telephone.
O’Reilly is defending himself by suing Mackris and the law firm that represents her. His claim is that he and Fox News were approached by attorneys in what amounted to an extortion scheme. O’Reilly accuses Mackris of seeking $60 million in an exchange for keeping quiet about the alleged scandalous conversations.
It is interesting to note that “Who’s Looking Out for You?” includes a chapter titled “Errors in Judgment.” In it O’Reilly admits to having made mistakes in his life but asserts he has learned from them. As a result, one of the skills he says he has developed is the ability to “recognize toxic people” in order to avoid them.
“I never allowed an emotionally unstable person to exploit me or lead me into destructive behavior,” O’Reilly writes. Whether or not Ms. Mackris is emotionally unstable remains to be seen; the fact that O’Reilly left himself open to charges is not up for debate.
Bill O’Reilly is a wealthy and influential man. His television program is touted as the most watched cable news show in America. On it, he routinely exposes the hypocrisy and fraud of various politicians, pundits and media personalities.
O’Reilly is not a naive person. He understands that he is a target for those whom he has challenged and/or exposed. In the “Talking Points Memo” segment during the Sept. 13 edition of “The O’Reilly Factor,” O’Reilly said:
“Fame makes you a target. … It is something that has to be taken seriously. As I’ve mentioned before, I have received many threats over the years … everything from death letters to some guy running around the country offering people $25,000 to sign affidavits accusing me of whatever.”
Assume for a moment, for the sake of argument, that Mackris is out for money. O’Reilly could have protected himself by doing everything in his power to avoid being alone with the woman. Even if he needed to have a private discussion at work, an office door could have always been left open.
Unreasonable you say? The policy of never being alone with the opposite sex has worked marvelously for one very famous man. His name: Billy Graham. In more than 50 years of worldwide travel, the famed evangelist has never had a hint of sexual scandal because he refuses to be alone with a woman who is not a member of his family.
Mackris’ suit claims that O’Reilly not only had private dinners with her, but he also called her on numerous occasions outside normal working hours.
If Mackris can prove that O’Reilly did, in fact, talk lewdly to her, O’Reilly’s image will be tarnished. There is no way to put a positive spin on egregious behavior.
Bill O’Reilly may or may not be guilty of sexual harassment. He is, however, guilty of incredibly poor judgment. The man who looks out for everyone else should have taken more care to look out for himself.
Unless O’Reilly can exonerate himself by proving Mackris is an opportunistic liar, it seems as if his “no spin zone” will soon become a “no win zone.”
Kelly Boggs is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.