Culture 10 April 2017
There is most certainly power in numbers. This fact was curtly evinced this week by the revelations of Bill O'Reilly's multiple sexual harassment cases. Lisa Bloom, a civil rights lawyer, said this week that there are, “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five but six," alleged sexual harassment cases against Bill O'Reilly.
And she, on behalf of her client Dr. Wendy Walsh, is calling for an independent investigation into the practices that allowed such cases to accumulate unnoticed over time.
Dr. Wendy Walsh is a psychologist who worked on O'Reilly's show “The O'Reilly Factor" as an expert on a 2013 segment called “Are We Crazy."
Walsh had aspirations of a more frequent contribution to FOX - the network the show is hosted on - and voiced these goals to O'Reilly. According to Walsh, the show host encouraged the possibility of an advancement in her career at a dinner one evening. When the dinner ended, Walsh said O'Reilly asked her back to his hotel suite. Upon her refusal, he turned “hostile," she said, and told her she could forget any advice he had given her. In short, he would not be aiding her with her career.
O'Reilly has been suffering an onslaught of bad publicity and an exodus of advertisers since this New York Times report was published last week, explicating the long history of sexual harassment throughout his career, and the pay-off culture rampant within FOX's ranks. In fact, just last year Roger Ailes, former CEO of the network, was fired for the alleged sexual assault against dozens of women. “The culture still lives on," says Bloom, even in the wake of his departure and the scandal attached. Thus, the reason she is calling for an indecent investigation.
Below, SWAAY talks to Bloom about her involvement in the case and her opinion about the sexual harassment O'Reilly has allegedly been committing for many years.
1. Tell us a little about your career - why law?
I've always had a big mouth and a passion to right social justice wrongs. In college I was national debating champion. What else was I going to do?
2. How was it coming up through the legal ranks as a woman? Did you encounter any difficulties along the way?
Of course. The usual gamut of old guys underestimating my intelligence, arrogant superiors sexually harassing me, a partner once saying to an old male client I was meeting with, "would you rather have a male attorney?" (The client said he was happy with me, thank you very much, and later I took the partner aside and told him that wasn't cool.)
Lisa Bloom(L) and Wendy Walsh(R). Photo courtesy of NY Daily NewsI complained about the sexual harassment each time of the three times I experienced it, either directly to the inappropriate [point of contact] or to Human Resources, and it always got resolved to my satisfaction. I insisted on it. I was nervous like anyone else. But I could not bear to think that if I did not complain, these guys would do it to other women who would be even more afraid than I was.
3. When and why did you decide to start your own firm?
After eight years hosting my own show on Court TV (2001-2009), I was ready to return to my hometown of Los Angeles, write books and start my own firm. Everywhere I've ever worked I thought I could manage the place better than the bosses were managing it. Now was my chance to see if that was true. I wanted to fight for justice for people and causes I believe in. Luckily my husband is a skilled, successful entrepreneur so he has always advised on the business side: when to hire, when to fire, when to take a new lease for a bigger office. I oversee the ten lawyers we have now, decide which cases to take, handle the big ones myself, and all the media in our many high profile cases, because that's tricky, and fun for me. It works for us.
"This network is the Bill Cosby of corporate America."
4. You've had a pretty lucrative career - what's your recipe for success?
Not always so lucrative, actually! Many choices I have made have meant significantly less money: taking a year off to write my first book, going from a big law firm to a small civil rights firm years ago, and accepting many pro bono cases now.
I enjoy a good balance. Yes, I want to make a nice living so I can put my kids through college, travel, and have a nice home. But I also want to wake up in the morning excited about what I do. That's my definition of success.
5. You list Bill O'Reilly as a TV personality that has interviewed you - how is it now representing someone in a case against him?
Delightful. He is a despicable human being who has been exceedingly rude to me, and who has hurt many women. He deserves everything he is getting, from the New York Times exposing his many settlements, to my client Dr. Wendy Walsh and me speaking out, to advertisers fleeing. Karma's a bitch, Bill.
6. Have you dealt with sexual harassment cases in the past?
Yes, I've been doing discrimination and harassment cases for thirty years. I currently handle many sexual harassment cases. My law firm's core work is civil rights work: gender, race, LGBTQ rights, disability, you name it, we fight for it.
7. When did you and Ms. Walsh meet?
We both have appeared frequently on CNN and HLN, and I think we met there, years ago. We became friends. I was pleased to attend a charity event where she was honored for her domestic violence work, and she came as my date to an Emmy awards gala. We both have been single moms and believe in empowering women. So when a NY Times reporter asked if she'd tell her story, I encouraged her to do it, and promised I'd stand by her as she did. I couldn't be prouder of how she's handled herself.
8. Does Fox's ineptitude dealing with these cases suitably reflect the entertainment industry's stance on sexual harassment as a whole?
Sexual harassment is rampant in the entertainment industry, but Fox News is the worst I am aware of. Dozens and dozens of women, tens of millions in payouts, and no end in sight: until we make it end.
9. You said in a recent press conference that FOX believes it can simply pay off woman to keep harassers in their jobs - are other corporations indulging in this behavior?
Many companies pay sexual harassment settlements -- I've negotiated many, nothing wrong with that outcome. But nearly every company will fire a man who continues to sexually harass women after the first incident. There's just too much liability to keep him on.
10. How do the President's comments on O'Reilly's innocence affect your case?
Trump did not say he disbelieved the allegations -- he said that O'Reilly did nothing wrong. I think that was honest. Trump does not think sexual harassment is wrong. How disgusting that this man is President, that he stands for his fellow alleged harasser, instead of for the women of America. Trump is the most overtly misogynist president in my lifetime, maybe in all of US history. Hold on to those pussy hats, ladies. We're going to need them.
"I don't think Bill did anything wrong." -Donald Trump
11. What, in your opinion, should happen to O'Reilly and how can this case be used to set a precedent for workplace sexual harassment cases in the future?
He should be fired. That may happen. The women who complained and were then driven out should be brought back, and Fox News should apologize to all of them. That will never happen
If this powerful moneymaker is toppled because of his treatment of women, it will send a powerful message that women's rights matter. Stay tuned.
5 min read
Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.
I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.
I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.
Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.
My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.
I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.
When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.
So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.
Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.
And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.
This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.
I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.
I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.