Bill O’Reilly ousted from Fox News after sexual harassment settlements

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 06: Television host Bill O’Reilly attends the Hollywood Reporter’s 2016 35 Most Powerful People in Media at Four Seasons Restaurant on April 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

This was originally posted Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Bill O’Reilly, the most popular host on Fox News, will not be coming back on air less than three weeks after the New York Times uncovered $13 million in settlements paid out to five women regarding sexual harassment claims.

That story led to a massive advertiser boycott and protests outside of Fox News in New York City. The nail was clearly in the coffin when The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that top brass at its very own Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox had lost faith in him.

“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent company, said in a statement.

He left for vacation last Friday and the drumbeat to oust him only got louder.

Last summer, Fox News’ chairman Roger Ailes was ousted for similar sexual harassment allegations after former host Gretchen Carlson filed a suit. (She ultimately settled for $20 million.)

Another woman through her attorney came forward on Tuesday without identifying herself, alleging sexual harassment from O’Reilly but seeking no damages.

Both Ailes and O’Reilly have steadfastly denied the charges.

O’Reilly’s attorney Marc E. Kasowitz of Kasowitz Benson Torres, said Tuesday liberal groups were aggressively taking O’Reilly down with a “smear campaign”: “Bill O’Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 18: Demonstrators rally against Fox News television personality Bill O’Reilly outside of the News Corp. and Fox News headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, April 18, 2017 in New York City. The protest against O’Reilly, who has been the subject of numerous sexual harassment allegations and legal settlements, was organized by the women’s group UltraViolet and the New York chapter of National Organization for Women. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The pugnacious O’Reilly is the top-rated cable news host and has been for years. He’s been the cornerstone and flagship for Fox News since it debuted in 1996. His departure could impact prime-time ratings for Fox.

“The dedicated base should hold, but he was responsible for bringing in a lot of that base,” said Frank Sesno, former CNN anchor and D.C. bureau chief and now  a director at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. “He was a magnet for Fox News. Losing that magnet is going to hurt.”

Sesno said this also shows that times have changed. “A culture of misogyny and sexism, no matter how towering the figure, can no longer be tolerated,” he said.

Tony Harris, a former CNN anchor from 2004 to 2010 who now hosts “Scene of the Crime” on ID, said Fox News has been such “a pit of despair for so many women for so long, I doubt there is much celebrating among the few friends I have there.” On the bright side, he said he’s hoping fundamental change does happen there: “Just keep hitting the bullies in the mouth and where it hurts even more… in their wallets!”

O’Reilly’s departure leaves a gaping hole in Fox News’ prime-time schedule, which has also seen the departures of Greta Van Susteren to MSNBC and Megyn Kelly to NBC in the past year.

This is also happening as Fox News has reached its highest ratings in history thanks in part to sky-high interest in the Trump administration. Fox News has been the top-rated cable news network for 15 consecutive weeks and regularly trounces its competition, including CNN. And O’Reilly’s ratings had been rising over the past year, surpassing 4 million viewers many weeks.

Variety reports that Tucker Carlson will take his 9 p.m. slot with “The Five” covering the 9 p.m. post. Carlson keeps on seeing his star rise. Last fall, he first took over for Susteren at 7, then Kelly earlier this year at 9. Martha MacCallum will remain at 7 p.m. in a re-titled show called “The Story.”

Read my recent Carlson interview.


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