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Bill O’Reilly maintained his innocence against the multiple sexual harassment claims that led to him losing his job as Fox News’ most popular and lucrative show host, describing himself as the victim of a “financial hit job.”
“If you look at the totality, this was a hit job — a political and financial hit job,” he told TODAY in his first television interview since he was fired in April.
O’Reilly was let go after revelations that Fox News had settled multimillion lawsuits by at least five women who claimed the former host of the “The O’Reilly Factor” had sexually harassed them while they worked together. He denied the charges, but wouldn’t elaborate on his defense, only promising that his legal team was aggressively pulling together “my point of view.”
O'Reilly said “a lot of business things were in play” when Fox News fired him, for which he said he was never given a direct reason but blamed on “organized boycotts” by left-wing organizations.
He shot down the idea that Fox News settled the allegations because the lawsuits included critical evidence. He insisted "there isn't a smoking gun” proving his guilt.
"In 42 years, I’ve been in this business. I’ve worked for 12 companies. Not any time have I had any interaction with HR, any complaints filed against me," he said, later adding: “Nobody is a perfect person but I can go to sleep at night very well knowing that I’ve never mistreated anyone on my watch in 42 years."
The claims against O’Reilly came on the heels of the resignation of Fox News founder and chairman Roger Ailes, who resigned in July 2016 in the aftermath of his own sexual harassment allegations. (Ailes passed away in May 2017.)
“After Roger Ailes went down, there was a flood of lawsuits — a flood, with dozens of people named,” O’Reilly said.
“Those lawsuits involved many other people, not just me. I’m not going to speculate about intent or why people did what they did,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “You don’t have the story correct. The lawsuits involved many people. I was named in a few of them.”
O’Reilly said Fox News had “billions of dollars at stake in business deals, and they made a business decision that they could possibly prosper more without me. It was as simple as that. It was a business decision.”
O’Reilly also said he won’t bother publicly arguing his case because it would fail to serve a purpose.
“I could do that but the collateral damage of these lawsuits, the press frenzy – every allegation is a conviction,” he said. “They don’t look for the truth.”
When asked whether the harassment allegations and his firing were part of a "vast left-wing conspiracy," O'Reilly snapped: "Don't be sarcastic."
The reference was to comments Hillary Clinton made to Lauer nearly 20 years ago that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was behind efforts to bring down her husband, former President Bill Clinton, ever since he announced his White House run.
O'Reilly said there is "no vast," but pointed to organized efforts from left-leaning groups to get major companies to pull their advertising from Fox News.
“We are going to be able to prove what we say. There are more things to come, all right? This was Media Matters, the Bonner Group, Color of Change, organizing sponsored boycotts to bring down Fox News and me," he said.
"My conscience is clear. What I have done is organize a legal team to get the truth to the American people."
Earlier this week, O'Reilly released his newest book, “Killing England,” the latest in his blockbuster “Killing” series. This one focuses on the Revolutionary War, as seen through the eyes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone contacted TODAY after the interview with a statement criticizing O'Reilly for failing to "take responsibility for his own disgusting conduct and and instead is on a self-promoting image rehabilitation tour, trafficking in victim blaming."