A Tale of Two Bills

And stories of other prominent alleged rapists

Illustration by Dalia Quiroz

Wealth and fame affords people with a certain level of celebrity immunity from the law. With a high enough status, and a strong enough legal team, it seems some people can buy their way out of anything. Some stars are so popular and wealthy that they can even profit off of their wrongdoings, ending up with million dollar buyouts on top of evasion of criminal charges. The most recent exemplification of this type of occurrence is the case against Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly was recently fired from his high-profile entertainment job for multiple accusations of sexual harassment.

O’Reilly made a name for himself through his essential personification of right-wing ideology by being the face of the conservative network Fox News. He was recently released by the organization he has called home for over two decades, since its launch in 1996, after multiple women came forward alleging sexual harassment claims against the political commentator. After an internal investigation turned up more evidence against O’Reilly, and other documentation continued to be revealed, Fox News finally made the move to terminate its highest-rated star.

The women who came forward were supported by evidence of payouts from Fox News, and settlements of sexual harassment cases. When O’Reilly signed a contract extension last year, there was a stipulation in the documentation that allowed Fox News to terminate his deal if any more sexual harassment cases came about, so there can be very little doubt about the fact that this was a known problem.

O’Reilly’s fans and supporters immediately chose to lash out at his victims, calling them attention seeking whores who wanted nothing more than to ruin their hero’s reputation. Some even insisted the victim’s were hired as part of a plan by liberals to destroy the reputation of an innocent man. No research, no interest in facts, simply supporting someone because they agreed with his rhetoric. Even after his own network’s investigation found him to be guilty, people insist on supporting a predator and shaming his victims.

However, O’Reilly’s release from Fox News was not a simple firing. He was awarded $25 million. This from the same network that gave $40 million to former CEO Roger Ailes after his ousting for similar reasons. The victims all together were only paid about $20 million combined. Furthermore, neither of these men will face criminal charges for their indiscretions. Fame, notoriety, and especially money, it seems, can carry more weight than law and morality.

O’Reilly and Ailes are far from unique in this scenario.

There is example after example of celebrities and athletes who are able to monetarily manipulate their way out of legal and ethical trouble. Even individuals who have massive amounts of evidence presented against them are, at a minimum, offered temporary immunity. One of the most recent prominent members of society who dealt with something similar is Bill Cosby.

The accusations against Cosby are much more egregious. He is accused of drugging and raping over 50 women, and yet, he has faced very little legal resistance. He was released on $1 million bail and had his passport revoked, but has since managed to delay his trial, and is still a free man over two and a half years after his original arrest.

Cosby may not have been found guilty in a court of law to this point, but there is some pretty damning evidence against him. Documents were recently uncovered from a civil lawsuit against him where Cosby, himself, said that he gave prescription sedatives to women he wanted to have sex with, while trying to hide his extramarital affairs from his wife.

While Cosby did not actually profit off of his situation in the way O’Reilly and Ailes did, the million dollar bail was a small price to pay in order to afford himself a couple extra years of freedom. Freedom he would not have if he was immediately imprisoned for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. This is the only felony charge he faces, despite the multiple accusations against him.

O’Reilly and Ailes may not have had to pay bail like Cosby did, but they do have something in common when it comes to money loss; civil lawsuits. The civil lawsuit has become a way for people with enough notoriety and wealth to not only avoid legal trouble, but also to minimize the amount of tarnishing these cases do to the reputations of the accused.

In a criminal case, the state or federal government is suing the defendant for liberty or property. In a civil lawsuit, monetary compensation is usually sought by the plaintiff and can be brought on by any citizen. The civil lawsuit has become a way for public figures to circumvent criminal charges, while keeping their reputations intact. This allows the celebrity in question to pay out millions of dollars to victims without much publicity, or any criminal repercussions.

One highly publicized example of a civil case that seemed like it was trying to silence victims was Michael Jackson v.s. Jordan Chandler, the first child who accused him of molestation. Jackson insisted the settlement was not an admission of guilt, but instead a way to end the pain and suffering on both sides of the case. Although the settlement was supposed to remain private, it was leaked that Jackson paid his first accuser, his parents and his lawyer a sum of $25 million.

O.J. Simpson was ordered to pay approximately $33.5 million to the families of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, despite his not guilty verdict in the case of their murders. Kobe Bryant paid an unknown sum to the woman who accused him of rape in Eagle, Colorado, even though the criminal case was dropped by her defense team. Greg Hardy, a defensive end who played for the Carolina Panthers when he was initially found guilty of domestic abuse by a judge, asked for a trial by jury. He eventually had the case dismissed before his retrial, partially because of an out of court settlement with the victim.

It seems that if you have enough money, the rules are not the same as they are for everyone else.

There is, however, one other stipulation to being able to buy back your reputation after an occurrence like any of these. You must have some kind of entertainment value, and all can be swept under the rug.

Greg Hardy went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys the season after his domestic abuse case happened. Kobe Bryant soon regained his endorsement deals, and continued to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even Bill O’Reilly already has a very successful podcast immediately after his release from Fox News. And worst of all, Donald Trump, to whom the entire world has been exposed to recordings of bragging about sexual assault he got away with, is now the President of the United States.

But it only applies to those who are still worth something to the world, in terms of entertainment. Greg Hardy and Kobe Bryant were excellent players during the time of their court proceedings. They still had a lot to offer. In the case of Bryant, the circumstantial evidence allowed at least some reason to believe his innocence, but Greg Hardy had already been convicted, and simply won an appeal on very iffy grounds. Bill O’Reilly was found guilty by his own company, and there is evidence of his wrongdoing, but he still has a huge following, and millions of supporters.

Former NFL Running Back Ray Rice, on the other hand, was caught on video hitting his fiancee in the face and knocking her out, and never saw another NFL snap. What he did was on par with what Greg Hardy did, yet Hardy was able to continue his football career, and Rice was not. This could have been because there was video evidence of Rice’s transgressions, and there was only photographic evidence of Hardy’s. More likely, however, it was because Hardy was still an incredible NFL talent, and Rice was nearing the end of his career, and was hardly more than an average running back at the time of his indiscretion. He simply wasn’t worth the controversy to the Ravens, or any other team that might try to pick him up. The only reason Ray Rice didn’t end up in prison is because his fiancee refused to press charges.

Former football player and NFL Network analyst, Darren Sharper, is currently serving an 18 year sentence for drugging and raping women; essentially the same crimes allegedly committed by Bill Cosby. Sharper plead either guilty or no contest to nine cases against him out of the 16 that were presented. These were just the women who came forward.

Even the district attorney’s office did not press charges against Sharper after the first case was presented, as they did not want to go after a high profile public figure. It wasn’t until multiple other cases were made against the former athlete that charges were finally brought against him.

The district attorney was afraid to go up against an individual with an outstanding public reputation and enough money and lawyers to cost a lot of money in a long, drawn out case. So they let him continue until they were able to get nine convictions. Not nine victims, nine convictions. Even after he was found guilty of drugging and raping nine different women in four states, Sharper is still only facing 18 years in prison, which is a very light sentence considering the circumstances.

Even when having enough money and fame cannot absolve a person completely, it can still allow for an incredibly lenient sentence. A sentence that he only has to serve half of if he plays by the rules, because drugging and raping a woman is classified as a non-violent crime in California.

The problem of classifying drugged rape as a non-violent crime in California is as damaging as having a statute of limitations on such crimes. It demonstrates the lack of compassion and decency toward the victims in these cases, who are almost always women. The fact that under the newly proposed healthcare law, rape can be treated as a pre-existing condition only supplements this point, and exacerbates the issue of allowing these crimes to cause minimal punishment to predators.

Bill Cosby has been accused of drugging and raping over 50 woman. After he has managed to delay his court hearing by two and a half years, he will go to court for one case. Andrea Constand is the only person who Cosby faces criminal charges against. Bill O’Reilly received $25 million to be relieved of his duties at Fox News, while his victims received a fraction of that sum. Darren Sharper has to serve half of an 18 year sentence for admitting to raping nine women. This is the kind of freedom and immunity money and fame can buy.

This is why people like Brock Turner can feel no shame about raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, and instead blames alcohol and societal influence, as if he shouldn’t be held accountable for his own actions. It’s why domestic violence and sexual assault runs rampant in the world of athletics and the entertainment industry. It’s why victim blaming and shaming are still so socially acceptable. It’s why people will still defend and support monsters like Bill O’Reilly.

It’s this kind of mentality and idealism that causes the lower income demographic to fight amongst itself over which wealthy person truly represents them and their beliefs. As if any of these people need or deserve our admiration, respect, or defense. It causes a polarization amongst bases that constantly perpetuates hatred and violence against different groups of Americans living in poverty, or dwelling in the middle class. It makes us focus on each other instead of realizing the truth; the true disparities in this country have nothing to do with race, sexual orientation, or whose God is the real one. And they definitely do not revolve around whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.

The true divider in this country is how much money you have. Either you have enough to be essentially above the law, or you are like 98% of the rest of us, and as long as we are convinced that we should be pitted against each other, fighting over frivolous issues that don’t really affect us at the end of the day instead of worrying about why our government only seems to be concerned with the needs of the wealthy, we are all going to be constantly finding ourselves on the losing side.