By JOHN T. WARD
A Shrewsbury man claimed victory Tuesday in a yearlong legal standoff with former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly.
Former New Jersey Assemblyman Mike Panter, right, said O’Reilly dropped a $5 million defamation suit he’d filed over a Facebook post in which Panter recounted an ex-girlfriend’s allegations of sexual harassment by the combative TV host.
Documents filed in the Eastern District of New York federal court confirm that O’Reilly voluntarily dismissed the case against Panter last week. Panter announced the end of the litigation in a press release, issued Tuesday, in which he referred to O’Reilly as a “disgraced pundit.”
An attorney for O’Reilly did not respond to a redbankgreen request for comment Tuesday evening.
O’Reilly sued Panter in New York supreme court in October, 2017, after Panter used Facebook “to call bullshit on” O’Reilly’s protestations that he had not sexually harassed women.
In a post, Panter recounted the purported experience of an ex, a former Fox employee he did not identify, in her dealings with O’Reilly. Panter claimed to have listened in on a phone conversation in which O’Reilly tried to coerce the woman into providing dirt on another Fox employee who had accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment.
“I heard every word, as we sat in the car with the windows up,” Panter wrote in the post.
O’Reilly had left his job at Fox six months earlier, after “at least” six sexual harassment claims were filed against him, including one that concluded with a $32 million settlement, according to the New York Times.
At the time, O’Reilly said he sued after Panter “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 suit was later moved to federal court on motions by Panter’s attorney, Lisa Bloom. Bloom had previously represented three women who claimed sexual harassment by O’Reilly, “forcing his termination” by Fox, Panter said in the release.
Panter told redbankgreen that after months of silence from O’Reilly, the suit was voluntarily withdrawn on election day, just a week before “the first real date where [O’Reilly] was going to have to answer arguments and account for his own actions.”
The one-year statute of limitations for defamation cases has now lapsed, so O’Reilly cannot re-file, Panter said
Panter said his aim with the Facebook post, and his determination to defend himself against the suit, was all about standing up for women in the #metoo era.
“I knew I was telling the truth and I knew I had a real solid case from a legal perspective,” said Panter, a non-practicing attorney. “I also knew that somebody with resources like him could drag even a frivolous case out for years.”
Panter served two terms as a Democrat in the Assembly between 2004 and 2008 and now owns a property-inspection business and a financial firm, he said.