The real cost of hush money

$32 million is a troubling amount of money. That’s how much Lis Wiehl was paid to keep silent about her allegations of sexual harassment by Bill O’Reilly, including a “nonconsensual sexual relationship,” which seems a euphemism for rape. That brings to $45 million the amount paid to O’Reilly’s victims – and almost $100 million paid on behalf of male employees of Fox News. All the agreements had confidentiality clauses.

The amounts are jaw dropping – and you could argue that the payments to Harvey Weinstein’s victims, in the form of film careers, were worth far more. More troubling is what they bought: silence.

The women are victims. The game the men were playing was not about sex, it was about powerTheir behavior was reprehensible; it was also just creepy. “When you’re a star,” Donald Trump said, “you can do anything.”

The deck was stacked: Juliet Huddy told Megyn Kelly she’s still “terrified” of Fox News, even after her lawyers hammered out a six-figure settlement. “You know that you’re just this one person that’s about to go up against literally a machine.”

And that’s what’s so troubling about the silence. It wasn’t just one person. There were dozens of them at Fox, thousands elsewhere – yesterday the California Senate hired a law firm to investigate sexual intimidation claims in Sacramento.

The real cost of silence is not the huge sums the perps and their companies paid in hush money. It’s that it allowed other and future victims, in the midst of a criminal epidemic, to believe they were alone.

James G. Blaine

About James G. Blaine

Most of us undervalue what seem our tiny contributions to our communities and the world. As a result, we feel powerless, even victimized. But, like the butterfly effect in science, the lives we lead with our families, in our communities, and at work – all the so-called little things we do – collectively change the world. As I grow older, my ambition grows more modest but not less important: to participate fully and to contribute what I can. That’s my goal with this blog.