When serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes was forced out at Fox News, he got a $40 million settlement from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
When Bill O’Reilly was bounced from Fox News after millions had already been paid in settlements to his female victims, he got at least $25 million to go away.
This week attornies for Matt Lauer, who was fired by NBC for sexually harassing female employees on The Today Show, demanded a payoff of about $30 million to settle his estimated $22 million a year contract, which runs at least through the end of 2018 and by some accounts through the first half of 2019.
Today, CNN Money, citing a source at NBC, reports that Lauer is not getting paid anything to settle his claim.
It appears NBC inserted a “morals clause” in Lauer’s contract, under which his pay ceases along with his employment if it is proven his actions were inappropriate and detrimental to the company and the show, which is a huge moneymaker for the network.
At Fox, O’Reilly appears not to have had a morals clause. In fact, it was revealed after the outspoken commentator was fired that Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, run by Murdoch and his two sons, knew about his misdeeds before signing him to a lucrative new contract.
“The Murdoch’s appear to have known that the April 1 New York Times article was in the works and deliberately included some ‘outs’ in O’Reilly’s contract to avoid paying him his full contract (about $100 million) if things should turn south,” reported The Daily Wire.
O’Reilley never admitted any guilt, despite the huge payoffs to his victims, and to this day has yet to really apologize for his toxic behavior.
Fox still walked away with a corporate version of a black eye, and let the shareholders pick up most of the tab for the damage that was done.
“Bill O’Reilly is reportedly walking away with tens of millions of dollars. How insulting,” wrote Roxanne Jones, a former ESPN vice president in an opinion article on CNN on April 21.
Fox News paid out at least $13 million to settle claims against O’Reilly, and additional millions later to settle shareholder lawsuits and lost millions more when advertisers dropped out of his show before he was shown the door.
Yet, notes Jones, “he leaves with a golden payout…Don’t think for one second his firing is a win for women in the workplace. It is far from that.”
“Had a New York Times story earlier this month not exposed reports of the toxic culture at the network that tolerated and enable his alleged behavior for years,” added Jones, “Fox would likely have kept silencing any women who complained.”
“It seems Fox has a clear corporate strategy in place: reward men who intimidate, berate and harass women at work,” concludes Jones. “Silence the women at all costs. And, no matter what, do not hurt profits”
So it is to the credit of NBC, which is a division of Comcast, that it had a morals clause in Lauer’s contract and that it is trying to hold him to it.
And despite his misdeeds, it is to Lauer’s credit that he is taking responsibility for his actions and has profusely apologized.
Lauer still could sue, or depending on his contract, take NBC to binding arbitration.
However, CNN reported in a separate story that Lauer was not likely to contest his pay being cut off the day he was terminated.
“Two people close to Lauer,” reports CNN, “expressed doubt that he would play hardball with his former network. Given reports about his yearly salary over the past decade, he has likely already been paid well in excess of $100 million during his time at NBC. He has multiple properties and investments.”
“Earlier this week,” continues CNN, “a source said that Lauer was accepting of NBC’s decision to terminate his contract, and expressed remorse when NBC News Chairman Andy Lack called him with the news on Tuesday night.”
Lack, in a memo, said, NBC would conduct a review of what happened to make sure all safeguards are in place for the future to prevent other cases of sexual harassment.
“At the conclusion of the review,” writes Lack in his memo, “we will share what we’ve learned, no matter how painful, and act on it.”
“Paying Lauer a huge amount of money on the way out the door,” writes CNN “would arguably send a contrary message.”
While Fox News and 21st Century Fox have both announced their own review and new measures to prevent future sexual harassment, it is not as clear, public or to the point as what NBC is saying it will do to change the sexist culture – to their credit.
Fox News continues to cover up for President Trump’s past misdeeds against women, and even played up his recent claims that the Access Hollywood tape about his fame allowing him to harass women wasn’t really him talking, even though he had admitted it was him at the time.
NBC has taken a big blow to a show that provides a major percentage of its annual profits, but unlike Fox, the network and its parent company seem sincere in their promises to correct the culture and make sure there is a system to catch problems in the future.
In this tale of two companies, both of which are guilty of past deeds, Fox continues to say the right words but doesn’t seem to really mean it, while NBC is saying fewer words, but it does seem to mean what it says.
Of course, only time will tell, but it appears that the peacock network will find new ways to feather its nest, while the Fox is still only a few steps away from the next raid on the henhouse.