Whoa How the Mighty Fall, Bill O’Reilly Strikes Out!
Bill O’Reilly’s reign as the top-rated host in cable news reached an unexpected and humiliating end on Wednesday as Fox News had to painfully let him go, after a series of revealed sexual harassment allegations against him and an internal investigation that exposed even more allegations.
Mr. O’Reilly and his bosses are said to have come under intense pressure after an article by The New York Times on April 1 revealed how Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, continuously stood by O’Reilley as he and the company reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. The agreements are said to have totaled about $13 million.
From that point forward, more than 50 advertisers had boycotted his show, and women’s rights groups had called for him to be terminated. Inside the company, it is being said that women expressed outrage and questioned whether top executives were being serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal led to the expulsion of Roger E. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.
The company had extended Mr. O’Reilly’s contract this year. The contract is said to provide the company with some protections, including that Mr. O’Reilly could be dismissed if it was made aware of other allegations against him or if new ones arose, according to one person. The contract also included extra assurances meant to get Mr. O’Reilly to address his behavior, the person said. Mr. O’Reilly’s salary was estimated to be about $18 million.
Mr. O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox had said that no current or former Fox News employee had raised concerns about him through a company hotline. That changed on April 5 when Ms. Walsh, who had related complaints about Mr. O’Reilly to The Times, called the hotline to report her allegations.
The Murdochs then enlisted a law firm to investigate Mr. O’Reilly’s behavior. Since then, other complaints have been recorded, including one on Wednesday by a current Fox News contributor who said Mr. O’Reilly had made inappropriate comments to her, urging her to show more cleavage at work.
Mr. O’Reilly has denied the allegations against him.
In the end, according to two people familiar with the decision, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, made their call after reviewing the results of an internal investigation that found that multiple women had reported inappropriate behavior by Mr. O’Reilly.
“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 said in a statement.
The news of Mr. O’Reilly’s dismissal came while he was on a vacation to Italy.
In a statement later in the day, Mr. O’Reilly praised Fox News but said it was “tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims.”
“But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today,” he said. “I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”
CNN reports that O’Reilly is to be paid “tens of millions” after firing.