After at least six women accused him of sexual harassment, scores of advertisers fled his program, and protesters demanded that he be fired, Bill O’Reilly’s days at Fox News have reportedly come to an end.
New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported Wednesday that Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, have decided that it is no longer sustainable to keep O’Reilly—who has ruled cable news for as long as anyone can remember—in his place.
The Murdochs’ decision to dump O’Reilly shocked many Fox News staffers I’ve spoken to in recent days. 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. The source added that senior executives at other divisions within the Murdoch empire have complained that if O’Reilly’s allegations had happened to anyone else at their companies, that person would be gone already.
O’Reilly’s downfall is a stunning end to one of the most long-running, successful careers in television. He has had the highest-rated cable news program on any network for decades. His career has also withstood multiple past sexual harassment and domestic abuse allegations. But a recent New York Times story detailing the millions of dollars in secret settlements Fox News and O’Reilly himself have paid out to several different accusers over the years appears to have dealt him a fatal blow. The story, and the public testimony from some of the accusers, led at least 60 advertisers to pull their commercials from The O’Reilly Factor.
O’Reilly’s apparent ouster comes less than a year after former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes resigned from the network over a huge string of sexual harassment and abuse allegations. O’Reilly was a vocal defender of Ailes.
One person who will be unhappy about O’Reilly’s demise? Donald Trump, who recently lamented the hard time his friend has been having.
UPDATE: Sherman reported that Fox News wants a new host in place for O’Reilly as soon as Monday. That was supposed to be the day O’Reilly returned from vacation, making it possible that he will exit the network without ever returning to the air.
Update, 2:32 PM: Fox News has confirmed in a statement to reporters that O’Reilly will not be returning to the network.
In an internal memo sent to Fox News staff by the Murdochs, the executives said O’Reilly’s departure “follows an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel.”
Update, 5:10 PM: O’Reilly released a statement of his own, decrying the circumstances surrounding his departure and rejecting the claims against him.
The New York Times also reported that Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene had become the latest woman to allege that O’Reilly had harassed her.
From the Times:
She reported that in late 2007, Mr. O’Reilly told her that she should show more cleavage when she was in the makeup room.
About two years later, Ms. Greene was making an appearance on Mr. O’Reilly’s show. Before the segment, the two discussed a bet they had made for dinner. She had won the bet, but Mr. O’Reilly had never paid up.
Ms. Greene said that Mr. O’Reilly then told her that while she might want to “break his bank” with the restaurant choice, he “was more interested in breaking my back.”
This post’s headline has been updated to reflect O’Reilly’s confirmed departure from Fox News.