Fox News Channel’s biggest star, Bill O’Reilly, was on vacation Tuesday while a serious of events has America thinking he won’t return to “The O’Reilly Factor” on April 24, following his supposed pre-planned trip to Italy.
Speculation has been circulating for weeks that O’Reilly will be out at Fox News on the heels of a recent New York Times report stating that host, along with Fox News, have paid out $13 million in harassment settlements to five women. The Times’ report resulted in dozens of advertisers distancing themselves from O’Reilly.
Things escalated on Tuesday afternoon when attorney Lisa Bloom tweeted out that another accuser has phoned in a complaint of sexual and racial harassment against O’Reilly.
Shortly after Bloom’s tweet, New York Magazine’s Gabe Sherman reported that three “sources with knowledge of the discussions” have said that the Murdoch family is leaning toward dumping O’Reilly. Sherman, who literally wrote the book on the inner-workings of Fox News, claims James and Lachlan Murdoch want O’Reilly out, while their father, Rupert, is still holding out hope of keeping the top-rated host.
If Bloom’s tweet combined with Sherman’s report wasn’t enough to send media watchdogs into a tizzy, Matt Drudge went ahead and finished the job. The conservative news titan is as plugged into Fox News as anyone in the industry and essentially declared O’Reilly finished at the network by saying he “had [a] tremendous run.
Fox News declined to comment about the new accusation. And O’Reilly’s attorney Marc E. Kasowitz issued a statement saying: “It is outrageous that an allegation from an anonymous person about something that purportedly happened a decade ago is being treated as fact, especially when there is an obviously orchestrated campaign by activists and lawyers to destroy Mr. O’Reilly and enrich themselves through publicity driven donations.”
O’Reilly has dominated cable news for 16 consecutive years and is considered the network’s marquee show. His exit could have detrimental effects on Fox News’ overall ratings. Another Fox News insider tells Sherman Rupert doesn’t want to fire O’Reilly because it would look like he was forced into it by the New York Times.
Eventually, The Wall Street Journal, owned by the Murdoch family, reported Tuesday night that Fox is prepared to boot O’Reilly. The statement was the strongest yet in a day of continuing reports that James, Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch were negotiating an exit for the biggest name in cable news.
New York Public Advocate Letitia James went on MSNBC and mentioned that the settlements might even violate SEC rules.
Late Tuesday evening, former contributor Nomiki Konst sent a tweet alleging that O’Reilly once kicked her off his show after former a Fox News host, who has also accused O’Reilly of harassment, physically attacked her.
Konst did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for additional comment.
Keep in mind that all of these developments unfolded as protestors demanded Fox News cut ties with O’Reilly outside the network’s Manhattan offices on Tuesday. CNN senior media reporter Brian Stelter noted in his “Reliable Sources” newsletter that O’Reilly recently signed a new contract that could contain “an escape hatch” for the network.
21st Century Fox will hold a board meeting on Thursday and O’Reilly’s fate will have to be determined by the end of the week, as he was originally scheduled to return from vacation next Monday.
Either way, The New York Times will have a follow-up on Page One Wednesday morning titled, “Bill O’Reilly’s Future at Fox Grows Dim as the Murdochs’ Support Erodes.”
The story says a “decision on Mr. O’Reilly’s future could come in the next few days,” and it looks more and more like he’s already made his final appearance on the network he’s called home since 1996.