Last week, President Donald Trump declared April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. This week, he took time in a New York Times interview to defend Bill O’Reilly, a man who has been repeatedly accused of sexual harassment.
“I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person,” Trump said. “I think he shouldn’t have settled. Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled. … Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
Trump was referring to the roughly $13 million, reported by Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt for the New York Times, that has been paid out by O’Reilly or Fox News since 2004 to five women who worked for O’Reilly or appeared on his show and later complained about his behavior. Two of the settlements reportedly came after former Fox News chair Roger Ailes was dismissed from Fox News in a separate sexual harassment scandal.
O’Reilly said the complaints have no merit. It’s possible he settled to avoid the costs and headlines that can come with a public trial of a high-profile figure.
But major companies haven’t taken any chances and are pulling ads from The O’Reilly Factor in droves, with big names like Advil, GlaxoSmithKline, and Mercedes-Benz joining in the boycott.
Trump, despite citing no evidence to the contrary, apparently believes O’Reilly has done nothing wrong.
The president is no stranger to sexual harassment accusations. During the 2016 campaign, an Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump boasted about his ability to sexually assault women, saying he can “grab ’em [women] by the pussy” because he’s a celebrity. After the tape surfaced, more than a dozen women publicly accused Trump of sexually assaulting, groping, or otherwise harassing them over the course of his several decades in public life. He then defended himself by insinuating that the women were too ugly for him to sexually assault.
National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month offered an opportunity for Trump to repent and perhaps show that he really does take this issue seriously. Instead, he’s defending a man who’s very publicly been accused of sexual harassment.