A federal judge has dismissed a $5 million defamation suit brought by former Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly against a former New Jersey politician who alleged he tried to get damaging information about a woman who accused him of sexual harassment.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco signed the order on Thursday after O’Reilly’s lawyers asked for his case against Michael Panter to be voluntarily dismissed in U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip.
“I spoke out against Bill O’Reilly on behalf of the women he had reportedly silenced, and countless others who have never had their voices heard,” Panter said in a statement Tuesday. “He learned today that no amount of wealth or fame can silence the truth when people with shared principles band together.”
Calls and emails to O’Reilly’s attorneys and publicist were not returned Tuesday.
O’Reilly filed his suit against Panter in New York State Supreme Court in Mineola in October 2017 after the former New Jersey state assemblyman, a Democrat, posted allegations on Facebook that he had overheard O’Reilly talking about digging up dirt on a woman who had accused him of sexual harassment.
Panter claimed O'Reilly called his ex-girlfriend, who was then a Fox News employee, to ask her about the woman. Panter also wrote that his ex-girlfriend had suffered sexual harassment from O'Reilly, and that she had sued him, but was bound by a nondisclosure agreement.
O’Reilly, who lives in Nassau County, was forced out of his job at Fox News last year after The New York Times reported he had paid millions of dollars to settle numerous harassment claims. O’Reilly disputed the reports.
After O’Reilly filed suit against Panter in state court, the former politician’s attorneys had it moved to federal court. In an Oct. 30 court filing, Panter’s attorneys said they would file a motion to dismiss the case because O’Reilly had failed to prosecute the case for more than one year.
"We stood up to a bully and we got him to back down," Panter’s attorney, Lisa Bloom of the Woodland Hills, California-based The Bloom Firm, said Tuesday. Bloom, who said she's represented three women in cases against O'Reilly, said he tries to use his wealth and public platform "to grind people into the dust."
"Many people don’t realize that if you stand up for your rights you can win," Bloom said. "A lot of women are doing it, and Michael Panter did it."