The host of the “O’Reilly Factor” has had a string of controversies over the last year. In February, a number of former colleagues came forward claiming that the Fox News host had exaggerated his own experiences in Argentine war zones. That same week O’Reilly was accused of lying about his minor cameo in the story of the JFK assassination. Then were more claims still that he exaggerated the dangers faced while covering the LA riots.
The good news for O’Reilly is that the storm has settled. Unlike NBC’s Brian Williams, who was fired after making similar embellishments, O’Reilly still sits comfortably atop the Fox News food pyramid. The bad news is that he’s now embroiled in a scandal that would appear to run afoul of the "family values" his network tries so hard to uphold.
In May, a judge granted O’Reilly’s ex-wife, Maureen McPhilmy, sole custody of their two children. O’Reilly appealed that decision, and the legal feud is still ongoing. But on the same day as the appeal was filed, the journalist also filed a motion for a gag order.
Such motions are considered controversial due to what some see as a violation of the First Amendment. Gag orders are specifically designed to prevent individuals involved in legal proceedings from speaking to the media about details from the case.
A curious concept for a major media figure to endorse.
Even more curious given that, in this case, such a motion would force both O’Reilly’s ex-wife and his own children from divulging "any information pertaining to [the] case," according to court filings.
It’s unclear whether that gag order was ultimately approved.
But what, exactly, did O’Reilly want to remain concealed?
Custody trial proceedings in New York are made public, but sources familiar with the case told Gawker that O’Reilly was allegedly involved in domestic abuse.
According to the sources claims – which were later backed up by court transcripts also obtained by Gawker – O’Reilly’s 16-year-old daughter told a forensic examiner that she had witnessed her father physically abuse her mother. Without knowing that his daughter was watching, O’Reilly allegedly dragged McPhilmy down a staircase by her neck.
O’Reilly vehemently denied the claims when they surfaced in May.
"All allegations against me in these circumstances are 100% false," he told Politico. "I am going to respect the court-mandated confidentiality put in place to protect my children and will not comment any further."
The gag order request wasn’t the dubious strategy employed by O’Reilly during the divorce and custody hearings. After their separation, McPhilmy began dating a police detective. Using his leverage as a donor to the police department, O’Reilly allegedly managed to have the officer investigated by internal affairs.
According to Gawker, the Fox News anchor also attempted to use his influence with the Long Island parish of the Roman Catholic Church to have McPhilmy excommunicated.
Will revelations like these affect his ratings any more than the allegations of his questionable reporting? Probably not.