Executives at 21st Century Fox have decided Bill O’Reilly will not return to the network amid sexual harassment allegations.
“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,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Murdochs have made the call that the embattled news host’s run will come to an end after 21 years at Fox News. The decision comes amid sexual harassment allegations that have resulted in dozens of advertisers cutting ties with “The O’Reilly Factor.”
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 up to now in a week of continuing reports that James, Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch were negotiating an exit for the biggest name in cable news.
Negotiations over O’Reilly’s departure have moved quickly. Executives held emergency meetings Wednesday morning regarding potential “collateral damage to the network” as a result of letting their highest-rated host go, according to New York Magazine.
“The O’Reilly Factor” finished 2016 as the most-watched show in cable news and O’Reilly has essentially dominated the industry for nearly two decades, finishing No. 1 in all of cable news for 16 straight years.
“The O’Reilly Factor” wasn’t just a profitable show. The one-hour evening talk fest has been the network’s cash cow, generating a whopping $446 million in advertising from 2014 through 2016, according to Kantar Media.
But O’Reilly’s position at the network became increasingly untenable following a bombshell New York Times report on April 1 that O’Reilly and Fox News have made payouts totaling about $13 million to five women to settle claims of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior. Additional female accusers have stepped forward in the weeks since the Times story.
The allegations against O’Reilly became public only months after founding Fox News CEO Roger Ailes stepped down in disgrace last summer after he faced his own accusations of sexual harassment, first by former on-air host Gretchen Carlson and then by additional female employees who came forward after Carlson went public.
In a statement posted on his website on April 1, O’Reilly denied any wrongdoing: “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.”
In the wake of the Times report, more than 60 companies pulled ads from the show, and the Washington Post reported that some of the sponsors were only doing so because they were locked into previously agreed upon ad buys.
President Trump recently defended O’Reilly, telling the New York Times that he “is a good person,” but his endorsement wasn’t enough for Fox News execs to keep O’Reilly around as advertisers continued to flee.