Last summer, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly came to believe that his wife was romantically involved with another man. Not just any man, but a police detective in the Long Island community they call home. So O'Reilly did what any concerned husband would do: He pulled strings to get the police department's internal affairs unit to investigate one of their own for messing with the wrong man's lady.
We reported in June that Bill O'Reilly and his wife of 15 years Maureen McPhilmy O'Reilly seem to be on the outs. Last summer she purchased a separate home under her own name, and transferred her voter registration to the new address, while O'Reilly kept his registration current at their old address. As per usual, Fox News did not comment on the situation at the time. Since then we've learned what happened, and it's like Bridges of Madison County meets Copland. When confronted with a potentially disloyal spouse, O'Reilly reacted by—not unlike his boss Roger Ailes—treating his local police department like a private security force and trying to damage one cop's career for the sin of crossing Bill O'Reilly.
Richard Harasym is a 23-year veteran of the Nassau County Police Department who, as of last summer, had been a detective in the elite internal affairs unit for 12 years. His job was to catch crooked cops, root out corruption, and police the police. But at some point during the summer of 2010, his commanding officer, Inspector Neil Delargy, called him into his office with a highly unorthodox assignment: Harasym was to launch an investigation into a fellow officer based not on what he had done, but on who he was dating.
Delargy ordered Harasym to meet with two private detectives working on behalf of Bill O'Reilly. They had information about an NCPD officer they believed to be carrying on with O'Reilly's wife. Delargy told Harasym to launch an investigation into the man and to tell him to end the relationship.
Gawker's source is someone who has a longstanding personal relationship with Harasym, and who heard the account directly from Harasym himself. The source provided contemporaneous e-mail traffic to support his account. "He told me, 'You'll never guess what happened to me the other day. Do you know Bill O'Reilly? I got called into my boss' office saying they wanted me to meet with these two PI's working for O'Reilly to go over some information because a detective was having an affair with O'Reilly's wife.'"
According to our source, Delargy offered Harasym no justification for investigating the detective—who is unmarried—aside from the alleged infidelity. "The order was to investigate this detective not for any misdeeds," the source said, "but to see if they could get anything on him. Delargy also told him to tell the detective to back off."
Delargy told Harasym that the investigation was highly sensitive for two reasons, the source said: 1) It was ordered directly by then-police commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, and 2) O'Reilly was at the time considering making a major donation to the Nassau County Police Department Foundation, a private not-for-profit foundation Mulvey helped found in 2009 to raise money for construction of a planned $48 million police training facility at Nassau Community College.
"These internal affairs cops were on the case at the behest of Mulvey in order to get O'Reilly's funds," the source said.
Internal affairs detectives aren't accustomed to running personal errands, and trolling for dirt on their colleagues, at the behest of major donors to department projects. So Harasym, the source says, refused the assignment. Several months later, he was transferred out of internal affairs. It's unclear whether the investigation was assigned to another detective.
Mulvey retired as commissioner in April. When we called him for comment, he seemed to be aware of the case. "I don't know if the investigation is ongoing or concluded," he said, "so I wouldn't comment. But I will tell you this much: I was never contacted by Bill O'Reilly or anyone associated with him and asked to launch an investigation." Asked if he knew O'Reilly personally, Mulvey replied, "Yes." He refused to answer further questions.
Mulvey and O'Reilly may have gotten to know each other at events like the one pictured here: A December 2010 fundraiser for the NCPD Foundation that both men attended. The foundation doesn't disclose its donors, and its president, David Mack, didn't return a phone call seeking comment. As of September 2010—the most recent time period covered by publicly available tax returns—the Winifred and William O'Reilly foundation (O'Reilly's chief charity vehicle) had recorded no gifts to the NCPD Foundation. But that doesn't mean that O'Reilly hasn't personally donated funds, or that the foundation hasn't made more recent gifts. Whatever his relationship to the NCPD Foundation, O'Reilly has been unusually sensitive to press coverage of that relationship lately. In January, when a Long Island Press reporter began looking into special favors being handed out by Nassau County cops to NCPD Foundation donors, the paper's editor-in-chief received a call from O'Reilly's assistant insisting that O'Reilly "did not receive any preferential treatment from Mulvey." What makes the statement interesting is that the Express' reporter hadn't asked O'Reilly—or anybody else—about his relationship to the foundation: "Funny thing is," the reporter wrote, "the Press never asked. His name had never been brought up in relation to this story until the assistant's phone call."
Fox News declined repeated and detailed invitations to comment on this story. Harasym, reached by phone, said only, "Anything related to the police department, I can't talk about. I can't tell you anything." Delargy did not return repeated phone calls to his home and office.
Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the NCPD, said, "It's not our policy to identify complainants in cases, and we don't divulge information about administrative investigations. Usually, investigations are opened after someone comes forward to complain about the activity of an officer, and we don't want to discourage people from coming forward." Asked whether an allegation that an unmarried officer is romantically involved with the wife of a private citizen is legitimate grounds for launching an internal affairs investigation, Smith said, "It could be. If a person comes to us and has a complaint, no matter how frivolous it appears to be, we look into it. We don't look lightly on citizen complaints."
We filed a request with the NCPD under New York's Freedom of Information Law for documents relating to the investigation earlier this month; the department's Legal Bureau denied it without confirming or denying the existence of any records. We are appealing the decision.
Our source's story was at least partly corroborated by another tipster who came to us independently. Not long after we published our item in June about McPhilmy's new home, a former Fox News staffer contacted us to say that during the summer of 2010, O'Reilly's nephew Brandon Ricci worked on The O'Reilly Factor, and began confiding in staffers that his aunt—McPhilmy—had been having an affair. Ricci described the other man as a "local sheriff."
"He said, 'Yeah, I think my aunt and uncle are headed for a divorce,'" the Fox News source said. "'My aunt is seeing someone, and that really pissed my uncle off.' He never named him, but he kept saying, 'he's this sheriff guy.'" According to the Fox News source, McPhilmy's relationship with the "sheriff" began while she and O'Reilly were already on a trial separation. As word of the relationship spread around the office, the source said, O'Reilly called his nephew in and instructed him to stop discussing his marriage. Ricci did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
As you can see from the photos above—the top two were taken before September 2010; the bottom two were taken in February of this year—O'Reilly has stopped wearing his wedding ring.
If the O'Reillys were to divorce, it could be relatively easy to do so anonymously. Under New York law, all matrimonial and divorce records are nonpublic. Generally speaking, though, the names of divorcing parties are still entered into the court docket system and are electronically searchable. A search of Nassau County courts indicates that the O'Reillys haven't filed for divorce there. But if the split is uncontested, couples are free to file anywhere in New York, meaning they could tuck it away in a remote county to hide it. It is also possible to ask a judge to seal even the names of a divorcing couple for privacy reasons. In other words, the fact that their names aren't attached to any divorce actions in Nassau County doesn't mean they are not divorced. Among the direct questions Fox News declined to answer was, "Are the O'Reillys currently married?"
One clue as to their status can be found in the most recent tax return filed by O'Reilly's foundation. Going back to at least 2006, Maureen McPhilmy O'Reilly has been listed in the returns as a director and vice president of the Winifred and William O'Reilly Foundation. But for the most recent return, covering the tax year starting in October 2009 and ending in September 2010, McPhilmy's name no longer appears. She has been replaced by Edgar Royce, O'Reilly's college roommate.
Efforts to reach McPhilmy were unsuccessful. A message left for her in June at a telephone number associated with her new address went unreturned; by August the number had been changed to an unlisted one.