One pillar at Fox News shook last year when Chairman Roger Ailes was ousted over a sexual-harassment scandal. Then primetime star Megyn Kelly left for NBC. Now a third pillar of the constellation of talent that built Fox News into a cable TV juggernaut, Bill O’Reilly, is gone as well.
At 2:32pm ET today, Fox News parent 21st Century Fox confirmed that O’Reilly—who has been on vacation since April 11th— would not be returning to its networks: “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.”
Statement from 21st Century Fox regarding Bill O’Reilly: https://t.co/VBTDFVy1mA
— 21st Century Fox (@21CF) April 19, 2017
Years of alleged harassment followed by estimated pay-offs totaling $13 million to his accusers and cover-ups by network executives toppled O’Reilly—exposed in damning stories by other media outlets, particularly The New York Times, which published another accuser’s claims yesterday.
Hosting the No. 1 show in U.S. cable news for 15 consecutive years, bringing in more than $400 million in ad revenue to the network over three years, writing a series of best-selling books that made him even more of a media luminary—even the support of President Trump—weren’t enough to protect him.
Follow the Money
After more than half of The O’Reilly Factor‘s advertisers pulled out from the show, Fox News EVP of ad sales Paul Rittenberg has been working hard to keep advertiser defections in check and keep their money somewhere on Fox News Channel until the matter was settled. Mercedes-Benz was the first brand to pull its ads, calling the allegations against O’Reilly “disturbing” and adding that “given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.”
Stemming advertiser losses was essential. As The New York Times reported, “O’Reilly was an essential asset to Fox News. His No. 1 cable news show made about $178 million in advertising revenue in 2015, and gained viewers in the prelude to the election and since. Meanwhile, Fox News’s financial contribution to its parent company, 21st Century Fox, has also been growing.”
Indeed, the Murdoch family that controls the FOX empire (and The Wall Street Journal and other properties) couldn’t look the other way either financially or reputationally after The New York Times reported that O’Reilly had reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. O’Reilly didn’t admit to such behavior, and said he was only trying to protect his kids from embarrassment by not publicly refuting the claims.
Once the charges of sexual harassment pay-offs came to light and advertisers bolted, the end came much more quickly for O’Reilly than it had for Ailes. As protests continued outside Fox News HQ in New York this week, the end was nigh.
While O’Reilly has been on a two-week family vacation, and was spotted in Rome today shaking hands with Pope Francis, network stalwarts such as Greg Gutfeld have been filling in for him in the 8 p.m. slot.
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) April 19, 2017
Fox News quickly announced that Tucker Carlson—a fast-rising star at the network who initially took Kelly’s slot at 9 p.m.—will fill O’Reilly’s old 8 p.m. slot, with a late-afternoon show called The Five moving to Carlson’s current 9 p.m. slot.
O’Reilly, meanwhile, issued the following (likely prepared) statement today on his personal website about his ouster:
Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television. It is 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. 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.
O’Reilly boasted of his truth-telling and alleged he was nonpartisan though his leanings were heavily conservative. He also was well known for aphorisms such as, “The spin stops here.” Now, it really does.
Below, his vacation sign-off that proved to be his final appearance on the network: