October 19, 2004 08:00 AM

Embattled FOX News Channel commentator Bill O’Reilly has canceled a series of TV interviews in support of his new children’s book in the wake of his former associate producer’s accusations against him in a sexual-harassment lawsuit, his publisher announced Monday.

Seale Ballenger, a spokesman for Harper Entertainment (which, like FOX News, is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News America Corp.) told Reuters that O’Reilly will not, as was previously announced, appear on Friday’s editions of ABC’s The View and HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, or on CBS’s The Early Show on Monday.

“Because of the intense media scrutiny Mr. O’Reilly is currently facing, he and HarperCollins have jointly decided to postpone the final media interviews planned to promote The O’Reilly Factor for Kids,” the publisher’s statement reads, adding: “We wish him well during this difficult time.”

Though O’Reilly’s book, The O’Reilly Factor for Kids, was published on Sept. 28 with 225,000 copies in print, the big news surrounding the outspoken conservative at the moment concerns the lawsuit.

Last Wednesday, Andrea Mackris, 33, filed suit against O’Reilly, 55, alleging improper conduct and pressuring her to engage in phone sex. Denying any wrongdoing, O’Reilly filed suit against Mackris and her lawyer, accusing them of trying to extort $60 million in “hush money” from him through bogus sexual harassment claims.

In the latest development in the legal fight, New York’s Daily News and the New York Post both quote a friend of Mackris’s who says that the woman allegedly had a crush on O’Reilly. The friend, restaurateur Matthew Paratore, reputedly gave a sworn statement to O’Reilly’s lawyers attesting to his assertion.

Mackris’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, however, called Paratore’s claim “garbage” and described him as a “spurned potential lover.”

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