“O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly has been ousted from Fox News amid a growing furor over sexual harassment allegations and multiple confidential settlements with former employees at the network.
O’Reilly, whose perennial ratings success over multiple decades earned him the moniker “the King of Cable News,” will not be returning to the network from a vacation to Italy announced last week after a New York Times article revealed that Fox News paid $13 million to settle lawsuits filed against the network’s star.
21st Century Fox, the network’s parent company, issued a terse statement Wednesday afternoon announcing O’Reilly’s departure.
“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,” the statement read.
Wednesday’s announcement concluded a stunning fall for O’Reilly, who has been the bellicose and straight-talking public face of the network for decades. He joined Fox News as the host of “The O’Reilly Factor” and quickly gained traction among the network’s conservative audience with his homespun analysis and no-nonsense demeanor. A New York Times profile of Fox News from 2004 credited programs like “The Factor” for vaulting the network to the top of the cable news ratings.
Yet complaints of sexual harassment dogged O’Reilly during his time at the network. In 2004, after his show achieved cable news supremacy, he was accused of sexual harassment by Fox News producer Andrea Mackris for “repeatedly engaging in offensive sex talk with her,” among other things.
The accusations continued piling up. Over the years, at least five women received payouts from O’Reilly or Fox News as compensation for agreeing not to sue O’Reilly or disclose their allegations publicly, according to The New York Times’ investigation. On Tuesday, attorney Lisa Bloom told reporters that an African-American Fox News clerical worker accused O’Reilly of calling her “hot chocolate” and leering at her when no one else was around.
The allegations proved to be enough for the power behind Fox News, the clan of 21st Century Fox boss Rupert Murdoch, to order O’Reilly’s ouster.
Murdoch addressed O’Reilly’s departure in a memo to Fox News employees Wednesday afternoon.
I understand how difficult this has been for many of you. Thank you for your hard work, patience and for the great job you all do delivering news and opinion to millions of Americans whose trust you earn every day. I look forward to even more success in the coming years.
O’Reilly will be replaced in the coveted 8 p.m. timeslot beginning next Monday by fellow host Tucker Carlson, according to a statement from the network. Dana Perino, the White House press secretary under George W. Bush, will continue to guest-host for the remainder of the week.
Lisa Bloom, the attorney for O’Reilly’s accusers, issued a statement on Twitter Wednesday afternoon crediting her clients for bringing O’Reilly’s behavior to light.
This is what happens when women speak our truth: We can slay dragons. …Fox News should have fired him in 2004 when the first complaint was made, but at least they did it now. They did it because we persisted.
It remains to be seen whether Fox can replicate O’Reilly’s ratings supremacy with a new host, or hosts. His decades-long career with the network have made him a household name and made his brand synonymous with the network.
But O’Reilly’s exit, along with the ouster of former chairman Roger Ailes late last year amid multiple sexual harassment allegations, may signal the beginning of a culture shift at Fox News. With Ailes gone from Fox News, the Murdoch clan is guiding the network more closely and have been receptive to complaints from employees, according to New York:
Late last week, the feeling inside the company was that Rupert Murdoch would prevail over his son James, who lobbied to jettison the embattled host. It’s still unclear exactly how the tide turned. According to one source, Lachlan Murdoch’s wife helped convince her husband that O’Reilly needed to go, which moved Lachlan into James’s corner.
O’Reilly, who earlier today was spotted shaking hands with Pope Francis, recently inked a multi-year contract for more than $20 million annually, according to numerous reports. At this point, it’s unclear whether the network will continue to pay him.
O’Reilly, who churned out best-selling book after best-selling book on the murder of prominent American figures, was once again greeted with commercial success with his latest book, “Old School: Life in the Sane Lane.” In it, he dispensed advice about consent and sexual relations:
No means no. It would be easy to make fun of all the hoops college administrators expect their students to jump through today before they engage in any kind of intimacy. But there’s no middle ground here. It’s all about the Old School tenets of respect and responsibility. No means no.
Correction: A previous version of this story said O’Reilly would be replaced by “The Five.” He will be replaced by fellow host Tucker Carlson.