NEW YORK – Bill O'Reilly (search), whose FOX News Channel show is the highest-rated cable news program, has been accused of sexual harassment by one of his producers. O'Reilly says the complaint is a politically motivated extortion attempt.
Both sides filed lawsuits Wednesday, with the woman, Andrea Mackris (search), saying the commentator had phone sex with her against her wishes three times.
In his claim against Mackris and her attorney, Benedict Morelli, O'Reilly said Morelli demanded $60 million in "hush money" to not file the lawsuit.
"As a public figure, I have received many threats," he said. "But enough is enough ... The threats stop now. I will not give in to extortion."
Mackris, 33, is an associate producer on "The O'Reilly Factor," a job she returned to in July after a short stint at CNN.
During a phone conversation this August, Mackris, 33, said O'Reilly suggested she buy a vibrator and was clearly excited. Before hanging up, she said, O'Reilly told her: "I appreciate the fun phone call."
She contended he made a similar call Sept. 21, ending that one by saying: "Next time you'll come up to my hotel room and we'll make this happen."
O'Reilly's lawyer, Ronald Green, said he believes there are tapes of conversations between the two and asked a court to compel Mackris to produce them so they could be played publicly.
"I know that he does not fear what is on the tapes," Green said.
Morelli would not comment on whether any taped phone conversations exist.
Besides the attempt for money, O'Reilly charged that his accuser and her lawyer were trying to embarrass him and FOX News Channel three weeks before the election. Morelli, he said, is a contributor to the Democratic Party (search); "The O'Reilly Factor" is a particular favorite among Republican viewers.
Morelli said his political contributions had nothing to do with the case.
"When he sued me today, I understood what kind of bully he is," the lawyer said.
Mackris sat next to Morelli at a news conference Wednesday, but did not speak and would not answer questions.
Mackris' complaint said she told O'Reilly she was not interested in phone sex and felt "trapped" after his first inappropriate phone call.
Mackris never complained to anyone at FOX about untoward behavior by O'Reilly, Green said. When she returned to FOX earlier this year, O'Reilly agreed to match her salary at CNN, the network said.
FOX produced an e-mail Mackris sent to a friend last month, saying things are "wonderful, amazing, fun, creative, invigorating, secure, well-managed, challenging, interesting fun and surrounded by really good, fun people. I'm home and I'll never leave again."
Mackris said in her lawsuit that she told O'Reilly she would return to FOX only if he stopped the inappropriate behavior.
She said O'Reilly told her: "If any woman ever breathed a word I'll make her pay so dearly that she'll wish she'd never been born. I'll rake her through the mud, bring up things in her life and make her so miserable that she'll be destroyed."
On his show Wednesday, O'Reilly called the case "the single most evil thing I have ever experienced, and I've seen a lot. But these people picked the wrong guy."