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Fox News talk show host sued over explicit phone calls

For those unfamiliar with Bill O'Reilly, the right-wing attack dog who hosts a popular talk show on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, a collection of adjectives might help: aggressive, opinionated, conservative, arrogant. He also claims to be a proponent of family values.

All of which has added to the delight with which liberals, Democrats and all others opposed to Mr O'Reilly and his cohorts at Fox have savoured this week's lewd and colourful allegations in which the talk show host has been accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a female producer at the station.

Andrea Mackris, 33, has filed a lawsuit against the married Mr O'Reilly, accusing him of making a series of sexually explicit phonecalls to her during which he allegedly masturbated, asked her to buy a vibrator and fantasised about the two of them taking a shower while on holiday in the Caribbean. In the 22-page complaint attached to the lawsuit, Ms Mackris alleges that Mr O'Reilly, her boss, said to her: "Well if I took you down there [to the Caribbean] then I'd want to take a shower with you right away, that would be the first thing I'd do, yeah. We'd check into the room and we would order up some room service and uh, you'd definitely get two wines into you. As quickly as I could... I would get 'em into you... maybe intravenously get those glasses of wine into you."

On other occasions he allegedly told Ms Mackris of trysts with a pair of "really wild" Scandinavian airline stewardesses and a "girl" at a Thai sex show.

While people no doubt feel sympathy for Ms Mackris, one senses that the huge interest this story has generated is the result largely of the salacious pleasure in seeing Mr O'Reilly - widely despised by liberals and those on the left - squirm. In addition, thanks to TheSmokinggun.com website, people have been able to read the full details of what the Fox News man allegedly said to Ms Mackris. Indeed, so much of the alleged conversation appears verbatim that it suggests a tape recorder was used. Either that or her shorthand is very good.

Mr O'Reilly, who once on his show berated a young man, Jeremy Glick, whose father died in the 9/11 attacks, has responded to the allegations in his usual attack-dog manner. Apparently trying to pre-empt the lawsuit, Mr O'Reilly fired off an action of his own, alleging that Ms Mackris and her lawyer, Benedict Morelli, were guilty of attempting to extort $60m (£33m) from him. In a statement he said: "As a public figure, I have received many threats. But enough is enough ... the threats stop now. I will not give in to extortion."

In addition to defending himself on his own show, he also appeared on ABC television to promote a moralistic children's book he has written, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids: A Survival Guide for America's Families. While being interviewed, Mr O'Reilly said: "If I have to go down, I'm willing to do it. I'm going to take a stand. I'm a big mouth on the air and I'm a big mouth off the air." Mr O'Reilly's attorney, Ronald Green, has refused to deny that the sexual conversations took place, but said that "snippets could have been taken out of context".

Ms Mackris worked as an associate producer on The O'Reilly Factor from April 2000 until January 2004. Her lawsuit states that she left to work for rival CNN in early 2004 but returned to Fox in July after her boss at CNN was fired for sexual harassment.

Her lawyer, Mr Morelli, who used to appear on Fox News, told The Washington Post: "Guys like O'Reilly who like to espouse what right-wing Republicans espouse about family values shouldn't be doing stuff like this. The man knows he did it. He finally got it through his thick skull that he did it, and he's not going to get away with it."