For the past few months, 21st Century Fox has been using the infamous Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape during company seminars to give Fox staffers an example of bad behavior in the workplace — a fact that became especially awkward this week as President Trump defended one of Fox's biggest stars, Bill O'Reilly, who is facing his own harassment scandal.
The seminars — a series of routine workshops at multiple divisions at Fox, the most recent one taking place Tuesday on the studio lot in Los Angeles — are led by a human resources executive with a focus on preventing harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. One attendee, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells The Hollywood Reporter that toward the end of the 1-hour seminar Tuesday, a photo appeared on the big-screen (seminars are presented inside a movie theater on the lot) featuring Trump, Billy Bush and actress Arianne Zucker from the 2005 Access Hollywood tape. Just before meeting Zucker, Trump bragged to Bush about grabbing women "by the pussy" and, in reference to Zucker, said, "I've got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them."
During a five-minute portion of the Fox presentation, "They went through the scenario of the tape, why it was harassment and why it's something you should report," says the employee. "There was an audible gasp in the room, like, 'Can you believe this is happening?' Trump was defended on Fox News after that tape came out.... Someone joked about getting fired for harassment and wondering if the defense could be, 'We were only told a behavior was bad once in a seminar,' but Fox News said it was 'just locker room talk' over and over again." Several Fox News personalities, including Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, defended Trump in the wake of the release of the tape. And Fox News' CEO Roger Ailes was forced to resign last summer amid allegations by anchor Gretchen Carlson and others that he engaged in a pattern of workplace harassment.
The Tuesday presentation fell flat for another reason: O'Reilly, the highest-rated Fox News host, has been battling renewed claims of sexual harassment in a New York Times story Saturday that reported the network has paid around $13 million to settle claims by at least five female employees. According to the source, a human resources executive quipped during the presentation that the department handled all of Fox except Fox News, so the presentation could not include any information about Ailes or O'Reilly.
"It was a joke...but it did not play well in the room," the employee notes.
A Fox spokesperson declined to comment on the harassment presentation or Trump's inclusion in it.
On Wednesday, President Trump told The Times he supports O'Reilly in the wake of the harassment report and that O'Reilly shouldn't have settled the claims. "I think he's a person I know well — he is a good person," Trump said of The O'Reilly Factor host. "I don't think Bill did anything wrong."