Indictment of Bills


The sexual harassment suit against Bill O'Reilly presents me with a problem similar to the one raised by Bill Clinton's sex scandals: My instinct is to enjoy the spectacle, but my schadenfreude is tempered by my opposition to letting courts award damages for a boss's piggish behavior (assuming it does not violate a contract or rise to the level of assault). Nothing that former producer Andrea Mackris alleges--"offensive sex talk," "unwanted phone sex…while using a vibrator on himself," "describing his fantasies about having sex with her in a shower"--ought to be the basis of a lawsuit. In that light, it's fair for O'Reilly to describe Mackris' demand for $60 million to prevent the case from being filed as an attempt at "extortion," although legally that argument will never fly.

In Clinton's case, I resolved this dilemma with the argument that he deserved to suffer the consequences of the sexual harassment doctrines that he and his fellow Democrats had supported. I'm not sure what O'Reilly's sexual harassment position is [insert your own joke here], but it's notable that so far he has neither denied the specific allegations nor defended his right to discuss his sexual fantasies with any employee who is willing to tolerate it. Instead, he has filed a pre-emptive suit that suggests he and Fox are worried that Mackris can back up her accusations (with recordings of their conversations, among other things).

Leaving aside the demand for damages, Mackris certainly has the right to proclaim O'Reilly an obnoxious pervert. And if he really did behave the way she claims, he probably deserves it. So maybe there's a way to settle this dispute that the lawyers haven't tried: If Mackris waives her right to sue O'Reilly for sexual harassment, he should waive his right to sue her for defamation.