That smoke you see billowing may be coming from the scorched earth custody battle unleashed by the nation’s biggest pundit, Bill O'Reilly. Apparently the atmosphere between O'Reilly and his ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy has become so toxic that even the Catholic Church has gotten involved.
According to Gawker, O'Reilly separated from his former wife McPhilmy at some point in 2011, then went on a rampage of revenge to destroy the career of the Nassau County Police detective she was allegedly dating.
Gawker reports that O'Reilly and McPhilmy are now formally divorced, and she has since married the police detective, but O'Reilly has reportedly now launched a scorched-earth custody battle dubbed Anonymous v. Anonymous—over the ex-couple's two children.
O'Reilly has also allegedly undermined his custody arrangement with his ex by hiring as a member of his household staff the woman who he and his ex had agreed on as a neutral arbiter of their disputes, Gawker claims. O'Reilly, a practicing Catholic, may also be making attempts to annul his marriage and have McPhilmy potentially excommunicated for continuing to take communion in her Long Island parish despite having been divorced and remarried.
In May 2010, O'Reilly and his wife began living in separate houses on Long Island, Gawker claims. Then in 2011 O'Reilly reportedly used his connections with the Nassau County Police Department to try to launch an internal affairs investigation into McPhilmy's new boyfriend — a Nassau County detective — for sleeping with his wife.
Gawker reports that it is currently suing the NCPD for access to public records, including O'Reilly's correspondence with former commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, about the episode. That case is on appeal to the Second Department of New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division.
Gawker claims it has uncovered a case involving O'Reilly and his ex in the Second Department. Called Anonymous 2011-1 v. Anonymous 2011-2, it apparently found a judge willing to anonymize the names to protect the interests of the children or the privacy of public citizens.
The case reportedly ended up in the appellate division, where decisions are routinely published, frequently laying bare sensitive details. The custody action is public record and is published on the web site of the New York state court system. It reportedly involves a father who attempted to maintain control over the children he shared with his ex-wife by buying off their purportedly neutral therapist. Anonymous 2011-1 is McPhilmy. Anonymous 2011-2 is O'Reilly.
Here's what the Second Department opinion reveals:
O'Reilly and McPhilmy separated on April 2, 2010.
They divorced on September 1, 2011.
They agreed to share custody of their two children, aged 13 and 10.
The couple's separation agreement included provisions allowing for shared custody—they each got the children on alternating weeks. And it also appointed a 'neutral therapist' to act as a neutral mediator to help them resolve any parenting disputes. But Gawker reveals that in October 2011 McPhilmy took O'Reilly to court after learning that the woman she thought had been a neutral therapist was in fact a member of her ex-husband's household staff.
The therapist, a Long Island licensed social worker named Lynne Kulakowski, was working long days and some evenings in O'Reilly's house, on his payroll, and basically acting as the children's nanny. McPhilmy was incensed.
The opinion reads:
'The mother claimed that the (father) had repeatedly violated conditions of the agreement. The mother further alleged that, after the execution of the agreement, the father had hired the children's therapist as a full-time employee to perform virtually all of his parental duties... The mother's affidavit contained specific allegations concerning the father's repeated violations of the custody provisions of the agreement since its inception... Moreover, the full-time employment of the children's therapist, the person designated in the agreement as a neutral third-party 'arbitrator' of custodial disputes, by the father, constitutes a significant change of circumstance which could undermine the integrity of the agreement's custodial provisions.'
At a Second Department hearing in January October, McPhilmy's attorney claimed—and O'Reilly's attorney did not dispute—that Kulakowski was earning a six-figure salary from O'Reilly.
This information made a mockery of the custody agreement's appointment of Kulakowski as a neutral arbiter, with O'Reilly reportedly rigging the game against his ex-wife.
A lower court initially denied McPhilmy's request for a hearing about O'Reilly's co-optation of the therapist, but the appellate court agreed with McPhilmy and sent the case back for a hearing. In a highly unusual step for an appellate court, it also ordered the appointment of an independent attorney for the children, an indication that the dispute has become particularly poisonous.
Meanwhile Gawker has learned that McPhilmy has been formally reprimanded in writing by her church for continuing to take communion in her Long Island parish despite having been divorced and remarried. The reprimand also instructed her to stop telling her children that her second marriage, to the Nassau County detective that O'Reilly allegedly tried to destroy, is valid in the eyes of God. It warned her that if she didn't comply, harsher measures may be in order.
O'Reilly, who interviewed Timothy Cardinal Dolan for Fox News last year, donated more than $65,000 to New York Catholic parishes and schools in 2011, according to the tax return of his nonprofit foundation, and he carries considerable weight in the archdiocese.
Gawker claims O'Reilly is now busy harassing McPhilmy about the holiness of her second marriage, whilst he tries to deny the existence of his first. According to the website he is seeking an annulment of his 15-year marriage, which produced two children. That would render it invalid in the eyes of God, as though it never happened, even though it produced two children.
O'Reilly's private actions contrast starkly with his public claims in support of the 'stability' heterosexual marriage brings to the culture and his concern about the declining marriage rates in countries that allow gay people to marry one another.