NEW YORK (AP) – Fox News Channel traded accusations Wednesday with one of the producers of Bill O’Reilly’s show, with the woman alleging that the commentator had phone sex with her against her wishes three times. Fox in a claim of its own dismissed the sexual harassment complaint as a politically motivated extortion attempt.

The woman, Andrea Mackris, 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.”

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.”

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.

O’Reilly is Fox News Channel’s leading personality, and “The O’Reilly Factor” is the highest-rated program on cable news.

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; “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.

Morelli’s partner, David Ratner, later said his client told Fox she was prepared to sue two weeks ago, but held off after the two sides agreed to negotiate. Ratner said the talks broke down Tuesday night.

The cable network filed its lawsuit Wednesday morning and the woman immediately countered.

A former White House intern in the first Bush administration, Mackris began working for O’Reilly in April 2000. Her complaint said that the first time she noticed odd behavior by O’Reilly came in 2002, when the Fox host allegedly urged her to use a vibrator after her engagement broke off.

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.”

AP-ES-10-13-04 1958EDT

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