Well! … That escalated quickly…
In the last couple weeks cable news’s prime-time juggernaut Bill O’Reilly has been plagued by allegations of sexual “harassment” by female staff and others.
The highest rated talker in prime-time took a vacation before Easter and has not returned. Now, today, comes word from the Fox Corporation that O’Reilly is leaving FNC:
Fox News is cutting ties with Bill O’Reilly, the biggest star in its 20-year history, after mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior prompted the network to end his program.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations,” parent company 21st Century Fox said in a statement, “the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”
Today’s decision seemed unimaginable a few short weeks ago, given O’Reilly’s long reign as the top-rated host in cable news.
But the climate shifted dramatically after The New York Times reported on April 1 that O’Reilly or Fox had paid $13 million to settle five cases against him alleging sexual or other harassment. More than 50 advertisers withdrew from his prime-time show, and 21st Century Fox asked a law firm to investigate a complaint from a woman who said O’Reilly dropped efforts to make her a contributor in 2013 after she turned down his invitation to visit his hotel room.
O’Reilly, 67, had not commented on his status since leaving on vacation last week—he met Pope Francis today in a VIP line at the Vatican—but his lawyer issued a blistering statement yesterday accusing his liberal opponents of a “smear campaign.” The statement said O’Reilly “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”
Starting Monday, Fox will air Tucker Carlson’s show an hour earlier, in O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. ET slot, and move the popular ensemble show “The Five” from 5 to 9 p.m. On May 1, “Five” member Eric Bolling will debut a one-hour program at 5 p.m., and Martha MacCallum will make her “First 100 Days” show permanent at 7 p.m.
O’Reilly’s departure comes nine months after Fox News founder Roger Ailes was forced out as chairman following a sexual harassment lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson and allegations by at least a half-dozen women, all of which he denied. One of them was Megyn Kelly, who also clashed with O’Reilly and who decided to leave Fox for NBC last December.
The net result is not just a transformation of Fox’s prime-time lineup, which has trounced the cable competition, but an effort by Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, to change the company’s culture and make clear that harassment is unacceptable. That became increasingly difficult, and spawned resentment among some female staffers, as O’Reilly’s problems became a dominant news story.
Fox had recently signed O’Reilly to a new multi-year contract, even as executives knew the Times story was coming…
A female Fox News contributor has come to Bill O’Reilly’s defense after a new accuser made sexual harassment allegations against him.
Deneen Borelli, who has made appearances on The O’Reilly Factor a dozen times since 2009, has questioned the timing of the latest allegations against the embattled host, saying ‘What does she have to gain?’.
Her defense came just hours before Fox News announced it was terminating O’Reilly’s contract.
‘When you’re on The O’Reilly Factor, you’re in and you’re out. When I was with him, I’d be going over my notes, and he’d be going over his, and there’s nothing inappropriate,’ Borelli told The Hollywood Reporter.
‘The one time he commented on me personally, he admired a cross I was wearing, saying he bought one for his daughter that was very similar to mine.’
The latest accuser came forward this week and attorney Lisa Bloom said the woman worked for another network back in 2008 but had a desk near O’Reilly’s office.
The woman claims O’Reilly would refer to the African-American as ‘hot chocolate’ when he walked by during the day.
‘This happened in 2008. I question the timing, and I don’t know why she isn’t revealing her name. It’s like a dog pile here. What does she have to gain? That’s my question,’ Borelli said.