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What a Big Bill! [2004-10-29]

Derek Rose, George Rush and Nancy Dillon [New York Daily News]
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Bill O’Reilly and the decades-younger producer who claimed he tormented her with unwanted phone sex reached an out-of-court settlement last night – putting a seeming end to an embarrassing sex scandal for the Fox News superstar.

Sources told the Daily News that O’Reilly will have to pay Andrea Mackris at least $2 million – and possibly as much as $10 million.

Under the deal, Mackris will drop the sexual harassment suit she filed against the talk-show host and Fox.

O’Reilly and his Fox bosses, in turn, will forget about the extortion suit they filed against Mackris and her lawyer.

“On a personal note, this matter has caused enormous pain, but I had to protect my family and I did,” O’Reilly said on last night’s edition of “The O’Reilly Factor.”

“This brutal ordeal is now officially over and I will never speak of it again,” he added. The terms of the agreement – which came two weeks after the scandal exploded – were confidential. But Mackris’ court filing – accusing her famous boss of pelting her with sleazy phone calls, pestering her for kinky sex and boasting of his sexual prowess – already has been laid out in explicit detail.

On his show, the conservative commentator said he has nothing to be ashamed of.

“Today, lawyers issued a statement saying there was no wrongdoing in the case whatsoever by anyone. Obviously, the words ‘no wrongdoing’ are the key,” O’Reilly declared.

“Please do not believe everything you hear and read.”

Last night, Mackris, 33, told The News, “All I can say to you guys is it’s over, and I’m happy that it is.”

The settlement came on the eve of a court hearing on the case in Nassau County, which could have brought an airing of more dirty laundry.

O’Reilly lawyer Ronald Green and Mackris lawyer Benedict Morelli declined to discuss the deal, citing the settlement’s confidentiality clause.

But legal experts agreed that O’Reilly made the right move.

If any tapes of the alleged sexual harassment exist and were to have been aired publicly, they could have been damning to O’Reilly’s career, the lawyers said.

Mackris and her lawyer never confirmed or denied the existence of any recordings.

But excerpts of O’Reilly’s alleged advances detailed in her lawsuit included enough lengthy monologues – and “ums” and pauses – to suggest the conversations were taped.

“Had tapes been produced, I think there would have been a significant backlash of public opinion against [O’Reilly],” said prominent New York litigator Peter DeFilippis. “It’s one thing to read the words in a lawsuit and another to hear them played over and over again on the radio and TV.”

Mackris claimed in her lawsuit that the top-rated Fox personality started making sexual comments to her back in 2001. The harassment escalated when she returned to Fox News this summer after a short stint at CNN, Mackris contends.

She claims his remarks included telling her to use a vibrator, boasting about his sexual conquests and plaguing her with three phone-sex calls in which he told of fantasies involving her – and a loofah sponge.

In a Nassau County suit that beat Mackris to the punch, O’Reilly and Fox News said Mackris and her lawyer tried to extort $60 million in return for her silence.