Bill O'Reilly most likely can afford to retire and he probably should be thinking about it before he spends all of his life savings on settling sexual harassment lawsuits.At least $13 million has been paid so far, that we know about. O'Reilly has a deep financial well, making close to $20 million a year from hosting his No. 1 rated nightly show, plus about $30 a million a year in book sales, making him the No. 1 nonfiction author on the planet.
Such a deep well makes him a very attractive target to those who have a barb against him.
You most likely have heard some gory details from the other television news channels, about the alleged escapades of O'Reilly's sexual advances toward women at the Fox network, whose careers he might encourage or advance if they had sex with him.
Of course, you haven't heard much about it on Fox. Fox News has stood with him, paying three settlements, of the five women. O'Reilly has paid two. One involved $9 million in 2004 to a producer, and the other was agreed on last year with a former on-air personality.
All of this comes after the Roger Ailes fiasco, which led to his departure from Fox News and a $40 million package last year. Disturbing allegations were made by female personalities against Ailes, that resulted in multi-million dollar settlements and Ailes' demise.
O'Reilly's show for the last 20 years has been a lucrative cash cow for Fox, earning the network hundreds of millions. Sponsors such as Mercedes Benz, BMW and dozens of others filled the pockets of the network.
However, by the last count, 21 of the sponsors have withdrawn from advertising on The O'Reilly Factor.
"The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don't feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now," a representative of Mercedes-Benz said recently.
It's always hard to know exactly for sure what he said and she said and what he did and how she responded, or vice versa. Even with audio recordings and videos, there is a lot of room for tampering. A picture may tell a story, but it doesn't always tell the whole story.
Not that I’ve heard of pictures or videos that incriminate O'Reilly, but there is always the possibility of something surfacing.
The fact that O'Reilly and Fox have already settled for so much with at least five different women in order to try to spare O'Reilly's children and others from embarrassment, and other suffering, lends strong support there is a lot of fire behind all of this smoke.
Also, the $13 million paid out isn't saving anybody too much embarrassment, it would seem to me.
The big question that someone else will have to answer, is how many unreported affairs and sexual escapades has Bill O'Reilly managed to have over the years? I'm not saying that he has. I'm saying if there is truth to the alleged harassment, then there is always a chance there are women who will never talk, because they don't want to embarrass their families or because they actually were enriched or promoted in their careers by having sex with O'Reilly or Ailes.
There is always the possibility that O'Reilly and Ailes had numbers of successful trysts before and after and all around the other women who claimed foul. There is also the possibility that all of the accusations have been made up for financial gain. Will anybody really know for sure?
This is all stuff that makes people go "hmmm." There will be much more about all of this in the weeks ahead. The competing media will not let this one rest.
By Glenn Mollette, a syndicated columnist and author of 11 books.