Bill O’Reilly fired by Fox News over sexual harassment

Murdoch-owned channel bows to advertiser and viewer pressure and dismisses veteran host

A woman hands out a small card with Bill O’Reilly’s face in front of Fox News Channels’ studios during a protest calling on the network to fire O’Reilly. Photograph: EPA

A woman hands out a small card with Bill O’Reilly’s face in front of Fox News Channels’ studios during a protest calling on the network to fire O’Reilly. Photograph: EPA

 

After a 21-year career at Fox News, veteran broadcaster Bill O’Reilly was dismissed by the conservative channel on Wednesday following a series of 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,” 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, said in a statement.

The announcement came ahead of a board meeting of the Rupert Murdoch-owned company on Thursday, and followed increasing signs that the Murdochs were moving to oust the veteran broadcaster.

Mr O’Reilly, who is in Italy on a week’s holiday, had been due to return to his prime-time evening show on Monday. Instead, Tucker Carlson, a well-known conservative commentator, will assume the 8pm slot.

Settlements

The New York Times reported last month that Mr O’Reilly had paid up to $13 million in settlements to five women to settle harassment cases. Mr O’Reilly has consistently said he has been the victim of a smear campaign and has become a target for extortion.

Bill O’Reilly: The conservative broadcaster brought in up to $200 million in advertising revenue for Fox News each year. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA
Bill O’Reilly: The conservative broadcaster brought in up to $200 million in advertising revenue for Fox News each year. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

The decision to remove Mr O’Reilly is a financial gamble for the company, which has depended on the TV host to bring in up to $200 million in advertising revenue for the station each year.

But after more than 50 companies pulled advertising from Mr O’Reilly’s prime-time evening show, The O’Reilly Factor, in response to the allegations, there was growing pressure from advertisers and viewers for the channel to act.

Mr O’Reilly’s involvement in a sexual harassment scandal comes nine months after Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes was forced to resign over sexual harassment allegations. His resignation, prompted by a complaint brought by former news anchor Gretchen Carlson, brought to an end a 20-year career at Fox. The former Republican strategist and aide to Richard Nixon founded the channel in 1996 and was instrumental in developing Fox News as the dominant voice for conservatism in the United States.

Replaced

He resigned just hours before Donald Trump was confirmed as the Republican nomination for president, and has since been replaced by the 86-year-old Murdoch in the chief executive role.

Mr O’Reilly is also a close ally of the president. In an interview earlier this month the US president pledged his support for the 67-year-old host, describing him as a “good person”.

“I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” he said. Mr Trump was a frequent guest on the show during the election campaign and chose to give his first prime-time TV interview on becoming president to the host of The O’Reilly Factor on Superbowl Sunday in early February.

With another woman coming forward on Tuesday to accuse Mr O’Reilly of harassment, an attorney for the TV host dismissed those allegations as “an orchestrated campaign by activists and lawyers to destroy Mr O’Reilly”.

The news of Mr O’Reilly’s departure comes as the veteran TV host published his latest book, Old School, which topped the New York Times bestseller list this week.