SHREWSBURY: BILL O’REILLY SUES PANTER

Bill O’Reilly has filed a lawsuit against former New Jersey Assembly member Michael Panter, who claimed in a Facebook post earlier this week that the former Fox New star sexually harassed Panter’s ex-girlfriend, according to Bloomberg News.

Panter, of Shrewsbury, told redbankgreen by email early Saturday that he had not read the Bloomberg report, and referred to a statement posted Friday on his Facebook page, in which he said he was “speaking the truth,” and expects his account to be “fully corroborated.”

Citing a summons filed in New York Supreme Court in Nassau County Friday, Bloomberg and other media outlets reported that O’Reilly was suing Panter for at least $5 million for defamation.

On his website, O’Reilly wrote on Thursday: “My legal team has decided to file a lawsuit against a man who posted a bunch of lies about me on Facebook.  As usual, some in the press picked up the deceit and spread it around.

“There is no way to stop this defamation which has dramatically harmed me and my children.  So, now, we will use the courts.  I will tolerate no more.”

The scrap followed a Facebook post Panter published Tuesday, in which he recounted the purported experience of an ex he did not identify. Here’s the full post:

Like a lot of men, I’ve had a sinking feeling when I see how many friends have posted using the #MeToo tag. I’ve also read suggestions on how men can play a role, and sadly I’ve had several ex-partners who were victims. One is well-known, but hasn’t shared her story (so neither will I). Another has publicly settled her case against Bill O’Reilly at Fox News.

I read a blurb today that referenced her being bound by a non-disclosure agreement. However, I hear O’Reilly spinning his falsehoods almost daily. This week he again said he did nothing wrong, while suggesting he’s been persecuted and had very few complaints “to Human Resources” during his decades at Fox. Bill should be aware that not everyone is bound by a non-disclosure … I am not.

My ex’s career was largely dependent on staying in O’Reilly’s good graces. For that reason, she was always hesitant to tell me some details – likely out of fear than I could jeopardize her career by becoming involved. Sometimes information would slip out … she’d come home stressed and reference O’Reilly, and only after some prodding would she reveal that he asked her out, adding that she should not tell anyone – that other women at the network would question it or be jealous.

I was also there on several occasions when a late night call would come from O’Reilly, which would create tension and make her clearly uncomfortable (I believe she later said in her suit that she believed he was masturbating). All as she was laying next to her boyfriend, and worried what hanging up could do to her career.

What stuck in my mind this week was a phone call I remember almost verbatim. We were in my car and parked at an ice cream shop, after bringing our dogs to the park. The first call came from a woman at Fox who I believe was the HEAD of HR (or Fox’s chief corporate counsel). She stated that she had met with O’Reilly and Bill Shine, who was the Co-President of Fox News.

She said there was a sensitive matter that they wanted my ex to speak with O’Reilly about, confidentially. I don’t think anyone would decline when the head of their company made such a “request”.

We sat for a minute discussing how odd the call was, and what it might be about.

60 seconds later, O’Reilly was calling (clearly after getting the green light from HR/Shine). I heard every word, as we sat in the car with the windows up.

He explained that a new accuser was suing him for sexual harassment. This latest victim was someone my ex knew, and lived in the same complex. He got to the point immediately: give me anything you have on this woman, which we “can use against her.”

He asked if anything was known about her sex life. He asked if she used any illegal drugs. He also asked if anything was known about her financial situation and marriage. In essence, the leadership of Fox, including their “HR” head/counsel and O’Reilly, who held my ex’s career in their hands (and whom O’Reilly was also harassing) was demanding information to attack another victim.

Think about that in light of him stating that very few women ever went to HR to complain about him, and how hollow those words ring.

To her credit, my ex didn’t tell him anything. She instead relayed an innocuous story about the fact that we had seen her in the building just that week. She didn’t know her that well or have anything to offer him.

O’Reilly was dismissive and stated “none of that is helpful” – signaling to another victim and subordinate that he wasn’t happy with what she had to offer, and again instructing her not to speak about the call.

So in a small way, I am just trying as a man to call bullshit on another “man” when I see it, and to do so publicly and non-anonymously.

Panter told CNN on Thursday that he was prompted to write the post after reading O’Reilly’s claims that he had a clean record with Fox’s human resources department.

“When I read that, I picture Vladimir Putin defending his presidency by saying there have been no complaints to the KGB about him,” Panter told CNN.

Panter, who served two terms as a Democrat in the Assembly between 2004 and 2008, posted this update on his Facebook page Friday in response to O’Reilly’s defamation claim:

“I am speaking the truth, and expect my account to be fully corroborated.

His actions give me a small sense of what victims must feel when speaking up against powerful men, and why more men hesitate to do so.

I spoke up, and hope I’ll be supported as I’ve supported others.

After discussing this matter with a leading firm, I believe there is a strong basis to bring defamation claims against Mr. O’Reilly.

Since I am not seeking personal gain, any recovery would be devoted to groups supporting victims of sexual harassment and abuse.

It is my hope that course of action will not be necessary, and these matters can be more amicably resolved.”

O’Reilly left his job at Fox last April after “at least” six sexual harassment claims against him, including one that concluded with a $32 million settlement, according to the New York Times.