Bill O'Reilly, producer of his talk show agree to settle harassment, extortion suits

Friday, October 29th 2004, 9:04 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Citing a need to shield his loved ones, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by his former producer.

``This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again,'' O'Reilly said on Thursday night's edition of his talk show, ``The O'Reilly Factor.''

O'Reilly, who is married with two children, also dropped an extortion lawsuit against his accuser and her lawyer. Both sides have agreed to keep the details confidential, O'Reilly's attorney said.

Andrea Mackris, 33, who was a producer on the show, sued the top-rated TV host Oct. 13, alleging O'Reilly made a series of explicit phone calls to her, advised her to use a vibrator and telling her about sexual fantasies involving her.

Earlier that day, O'Reilly, 55, filed a lawsuit accusing Mackris and her lawyer of trying to extort $60 million in ``hush money'' to make the case quietly go away.

``This matter has caused enormous pain, but I had to protect my family, and I did. All I can say to you is please do not believe everything you hear and read,'' O'Reilly, whose ratings have gone up 30 percent since the lawsuits were filed, told his viewers.

Shortly before ``Factor'' aired Thursday, O'Reilly's lawyer, Ronald Green, issued a statement saying the cases and claims had been withdrawn and all parties agreed there was no wrongdoing by O'Reilly, Mackris or Mackris' lawyer.

Green's statement about the settlement did not mention money, and it could not be learned immediately whether it was a factor.

Mackris' lawyer didn't immediately return several telephone calls seeking comment.

Several days after filing her sexual harassment suit, Mackris filed amended court papers, claiming that Fox had violated her rights under New York state law by firing her after she complained about being sexually harassed.

Fox denied Mackris had been fired, saying she had simply stopped coming to work.

A spokeswoman for Fox would not say whether Mackris is still on Fox's payroll.