On the heels of a New York Times report on the millions of dollars that have been paid to sexual harassment accusers on behalf of Bill O'Reilly, Sexual-Predator-in-Chief Donald Trump is defending O'Reilly, and potentially harming all survivors of sexual crimes.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is in a heap of trouble, after years of sexual harassment accusations finally caught up to him in the form of a New York Times exposé detailing the $13 million that has been paid out to his accusers over the years.
That story has resulted in a mass exodus of advertisers that now stands at twenty, and in an unusual twist, these companies are explicitly citing O’Reilly’s misconduct allegations in their statements.
O’Reilly does have at least one friend left, though, and he is a powerful one: Donald Trump, himself a self-professed sexual assailant and violator of intimate privacy, defended O’Reilly in a New York Times interview that took place in the Oval Office:
“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” said Mr. Trump, who during the interview was surrounded at his desk by a half-dozen of his highest-ranking aides, including the economic adviser Gary Cohn and the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, along with Vice President Mike Pence.
“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled,” said Mr. Trump. “Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
Trump has defended O’Reilly in the past, in not quite as ironic terms:
Why does the liberal media think Bill O'Reilly (@oreillyfactor) is a complete and total vulgarian? I don't think so!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2016
In an email statement, Kaylie Hanson Long, National Communications Director for NARAL Pro-Choice, said “A man who bragged about committing sexual assault and grabbing women by the pu$$y is defending Bill O’Reilly. Enough said.”
But Trump’s defense may turn out to be a kiss of death for O’Reilly’s Fox News career. As CNN media reporter Dylan Byers pointed out, Trump’s blessing was a curse for former Fox CEO Roger Ailes:
One week after Trump defended Ailes, Ailes was ousted from Fox… https://t.co/4fRWoCKotk
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) April 5, 2017
Trump’s words, though, go beyond mere defense, and into enabling rape culture by telling survivors of sexual violence, abuse, and harassment that they will not be believed, that their lives do not matter as much as that of the powerful man who harmed them. That this messaging is coming from the occupant of the presidency is an abuse of that office.
However, if Trump’s mere months in office have taught us anything, it is that resistance to him and all he stands for is strong and unrelenting. Perhaps his twisted defense of O’Reilly will have the opposite of its intended effect, and O’Reilly will soon find himself with as much time on his hands as his former boss, Ailes.