O'Reilly apologizes for invoking death of former Fox colleague's son

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor
Bill O’Reilly (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Bill O’Reilly has apologized to former Fox News host Eric Bolling for invoking the death of Bolling’s son while O’Reilly was lashing out at the New York Times regarding his $32 million settlement with a Fox News colleague who accused him of sexual harassment.

“Apologies to Eric Bolling and prayers for him and his family,” O’Reilly tweeted on Monday night. “The message I tried to send was that allegations harm kids. Nothing more.”

“Eric Bolling is a stand up guy who deserves the respect I have for him,” he added.

Earlier in the day, the Times published an audiotape of an O’Reilly interview in which the former Fox News star warned Times reporters Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt not to publish allegations that he claimed he could disprove with “shocking” evidence.

“I urge you to think about what you put in your newspaper. Eric Bolling’s son is dead,” O’Reilly said. “He’s dead because of allegations made — in my opinion, and I know this to be true — against Mr. Bolling.”

Bolling’s 19-year-old son, Eric Chase Bolling, died last month in Boulder, Colo., where he was in his second year at the University of Colorado. Bolling was suspended by Fox News in August amid allegations he sent lewd photos to female co-workers. He reached an agreement to leave the network the day before his son’s death.

“I believe it is beyond inappropriate for anyone to bring in the tragic death of my son,” Bolling said in a statement on Monday. “Just as Bill O’Reilly had wanted to shield his children from the allegations against him, I hope he will honor my request and avoid any future mentions of my son. My parting from Fox News was in no way connected to the tragic news of my son’s passing. The coroner has in fact indicated to us that they believe it was an accident.”

Over the weekend, the Times reported that O’Reilly struck a $32 million settlement with former Fox News analyst Lis Wiehl, who accused him of “repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography.” Notably, the reported settlement came in January, about six months after Fox News chief Roger Ailes was forced out of the cable news behemoth amid his own series of sexual harassment allegations.

It was then the sixth such settlement for O’Reilly, the Times reported, but the network extended O’Reilly’s contract several weeks later. In April, O’Reilly was forced out at Fox News after the Times disclosed multiple settlements between O’Reilly and women accusing him of sexual harassment.

“I never mistreated anyone,” O’Reilly insisted to the Times, saying the claims against him were “politically and financially motivated.”

On Sunday, Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News anchor who sued Ailes for alleged sexual harassment and retaliation last year, called the renewal of O’Reilly’s contract after the reported $32 million settlement “horrifying and outrageous.”

“Nobody pays $32m for false allegations,” Carlson tweeted. “Nobody.”

Megyn Kelly, another Fox News former colleague, wondered aloud about the settlement on her NBC morning talk show.

“What on earth would justify that amount?” Kelly said. “What awfulness went on?”

O’Reilly responded by offering what he said was evidence of his innocence: a signed affidavit from Wiehl — which was part of the $32 million settlement — and brief thank-you notes from Kelly and Carlson.

“We’ve got letters from Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly to me,” O’Reilly said in an interview with Glenn Beck on Monday. “Everything is there. You still wanna think I’m a bad guy? Go ahead. The truth is the truth.”

On his own podcast published Monday night, O’Reilly said he is “mad at God” about the ongoing scandal.

“You know, am I mad at God? Yeah, I’m mad at him,” O’Reilly said on the latest episode of his web series, “No Spin News.” “I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn’t happen. I can’t explain it to you. Yeah, I’m mad at him.”

On CBS’ “Late Show,” host Stephen Colbert, who loosely modeled his breakout “Colbert Report” character on O’Reilly, excoriated the former Fox News star.

“It’s shocking that Fox News knew about all these sexual harassment settlements and kept him employed for so long,” Colbert said. “But maybe they were just trying to protect their female employees, because if Bill’s on camera, that means that’s one hour a day they knew he’s not groping somebody.”

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