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O’SLIMY FACTOR

Sex rap vs. host latest Fox horror

NY Daily NewsDON KAPLAN
Fox bigmouth Bill O'Reilly tried to kiss Juliet Huddy (above) on the lips and peppered her with lewd calls, according to a letter from her lawyers.
BRYAN R. SMITH; GETTY
It's time to call Fox the "Cosby" news channel. What else is there to say about a network continually defending its talent and executives against allegations and lawsuits that claim all manner of sexual misconduct. Not to mention all that settling of charges.
The finger-pointing heated up after former chief Roger Ailes was booted from Fox News Channel last summer and the network paid $20 million to settle charges leveled by his accuser, former morning show host Gretchen Carlson.
Since then, a veritable avalanche of women have made similar accusations against men at the network, mostly citing Ailes. Now, Bill O'Reilly and top executive Jack Abernathy have been accused, too.
The latest news that Fox had reportedly doled out a chunk of change in the high six figures in defense of flagship talent O'Reilly, makes you wonder what they're feeding them over on Sixth Ave. -- Jell-O Pudding Pops?
Bill Cosby, of course, is accused far more seriously of physically forcing himself on several dozen women over decades. The parallel here is that the accusations against both Cosby and Fox are serious offenses in which powerful men allegedly took advantage of less powerful women.
Not for nothing, Ailes is still fighting two sexual harassment lawsuits and denying accusations by more than 20 women.
This most recent O'Reilly affair centers around accusations by former host Juliet Huddy. In a letter by her lawyers to Fox News that was leaked to reporters, she alleged that, among other things, O'Reilly tried to kiss her on the lips and would call her at all hours. Lawyers wrote that Huddy believed that during several of those calls the powerful star was masturbating.
Huddy also alleged that Abernathy -- who now serves as the channel's co-president -- "trashed" her career at Fox after she rejected his attempts to pursue a personal relationship with her.
But wait, there's more. Tuesday afternoon, New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman (who literally wrote the book on Ailes and Fox) reported that after Ailes' departure last summer, there have been at least four separate "secret" sexual harassment settlements with women who worked at Fox.
For the record, Ailes, O'Reilly and Abernathy have denied all accusations.
On Tuesday O'Reilly's lawyer said, "There is absolutely no basis for any claim of sexual harassment against Bill O'Reilly by Juliet Huddy." A Fox News rep also denied Huddy's allegations.
Still, while paying out a bigbucks settlement is -- as President-elect Donald Trump frequently points out -- no admission of guilt, it really doesn't look good.
In fact, it looks horrible and damaging.
O'Reilly, has been down this road before. Sure, he's a ratings juggernaut who delivers big money to Fox -- $180 million in advertising dollars in 2015, according to Kantar Media -- but he was fingered as a harasser in Carlson's suit and another one 13 years ago infamously filled with graphic details.
In that 2004 lawsuit, Andrea Mackris, a producer on his show, claimed that he made unwanted sexual advances and lewd comments to her in a series of phone calls and dinner conversations.
According to Mackris, O'Reilly told her on multiple occasions to buy a vibrator, called her when it sounded like he was masturbating and described to her his sexual fantasies, which included using a loofah -- which he referred to as a "falafel thing" -- on her private parts. That suit was settled -- after two weeks of blistering tabloid headlines -- allegedly for millions of dollars.
Look, television is a shallow business. It's filled with beautiful people and some of them also happen to be pretty smart. Sexual harassment allegations, lawsuits and settlements are obviously not limited to Fox News Channel, but there seems to have been an awful lot of them -- especially lately.
When dozens of people come forward all saying the same thing -- and many are paid lots of money to shut up and go away -- something is wrong.
Even Cosby would say so. dkaplan@nydailynews.com
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