Bill O’Reilly’s legal battle against his ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy appeared to be over earlier this year when a panel of three appellate justices unanimously granted McPhilmy residential custody of the ex-couple’s two children. According to court documents filed late last month, however, O’Reilly intends to sue McPhilmy for $10 million on charges of misleading him about the terms of their separation agreement. In the same papers, the Fox News host accuses McPhilmy of using the proceeds of their separation to underwrite an affair with another man. And he wants the entire lawsuit to proceed in secret.
O’Reilly has built a formidable media empire around his unique brand of moral authoritarianism, with which he has indulged his audience’s obsession with the moral failings of black families. When it comes to the perceived sins of his own family, O’Reilly is only slightly more circumspect. The Fox host’s lawyers have filed a series of documents alleging that McPhilmy “knowingly made false misrepresentations and material omissions of existing fact to [O’Reilly] ... for the sole purpose of inducing [him] to agree to a consensual divorce and to obtain money and real property to finance an existing extra-marital relationship.”
O’Reilly has not yet served McPhilmy, or provided the Nassau County justice assigned to his lawsuit, with an actual complaint detailing his case against his former spouse. But the “extra-marital relationship” to which O’Reilly refers in the above “notice” is almost certainly the one between McPhilmy and Jeffrey Gross, a detective in the Nassau County Police Department. They began dating after McPhilmy and O’Reilly separated in 2010, but before the couple formally divorced the next year. As Gawker reported in 2011, O’Reilly retaliated by leveraging his connections within Long Island’s law enforcement community to launch a nuisance internal affairs investigation against Gross—not for any actual misconduct related to his duties as a detective, but for the act of dating O’Reilly’s wife.
O’Reilly continued to meddle with McPhilmy and her new family as their divorce made its way through the court system. A court-appointed therapist testified last year that, when O’Reilly was alone with his and McPhilmy’s teenage daughter, O’Reilly would call his ex-wife an “adulterer,” said his daughter’s step-father was “not a good person,” and claimed that spending any time with McPhilmy and her new husband would “ruin her life.” The same therapist told the justice overseeing the ex-couple’s custody battle that O’Reilly and McPhilmy’s daughter witnessed her father drag her mother down a staircase by the neck.
Though the documents filed thus far are open to the public, O’Reilly is apparently hoping to convince the court to seal the remainder of his case against McPhilmy. In early April, O’Reilly applied for an “anonymous caption order and sealing of file,” but was denied on the same day. O’Reilly later submitted a copy of his and McPhilmy’s separation agreement, dated November 2009, in which both parties agreed to conduct future legal disputes anonymously. In a separate filing, his lawyers argued that he and McPhilmy “are contractually obligated not to disclose information related to this dispute as they agreed it is in the best interests of their children, which overcomes the right of public access to records.”
O’Reilly also invoked his status as a television celebrity to justify sealing his lawsuit against McPhilmy: “Plaintiff is a public figure and matters concerning his personaI life, marriage, and children, attract media attention, which, upon information and belief, caused the minor children extreme emotional distress.”
It’s unclear what exactly O’Reilly means by “matters concerning his personal life,” but it certainly brings to mind the Fox host’s infamous behavior toward a subordinate twelve years ago. In 2004, O’Reilly settled with a former producer named Andrea Mackris who accused him of sexual harassing her—in one instance, by promising to stimulate her “with the falafel [sic] thing”—while she worked on his Fox News show.
Neither O’Reilly nor McPhilmy responded to requests for comment.