Bill O’Reilly in deepening scandal over sexual harrassment payouts

Fox News presenter faces calls to resign as advertisers withdraw support for his show

 

Nine months after Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes was forced to resign over sexual harassment allegations, one of the network’s star presenters has become embroiled in a deepening scandal that has prompted numerous companies to pull advertising from his show.

Bill O’Reilly, the presenter of the weekday show The O’Reilly Factor, faces calls to resign after a New York Times front page article on Saturday reported that he paid $13 million in settlements to five women who accused him of sexual harassment.

A cascade of companies announced they were withdrawing advertisements from his show, including Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, BMW and GlaxoSmithKline.

In a statement, Hyundai said it wanted to work with companies that “share our values of inclusion and diversity”.

O’Reilly made no reference to the issue on his Tuesday evening show.

Separately, the channel faces further scrutiny after a third woman joined a suit against it for alleged racism. Two women had brought a lawsuit last week claiming that they had informed the channel’s top legal officer, Dianne Brandi, in December 2014 about racial harassment but they were ignored.

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In yet another development, Julie Roginsky, a current contributor to the channel, filed a suit against Ailes, the former chief executive, claiming she was denied a position with the channel because she rebuffed his advances.

In a statement on the O’Reilly controversy on Tuesday, Fox said it was working to address the concerns of advertisers, noting that the companies in question had diverted their funds into other Fox News content.

“We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about the O’Reilly Factor,” it said.

Trump supporter

So far Fox has backed O’Reilly, one of its top-rating news anchors. The 67-year-old has previously argued that he has long been a target for extortion because of his high profile. O’Reilly is perceived as being a strong supporter of US president Donald Trump.

The president chose to do his first prime time interview following his inauguration with the O’Reilly in early February, an interview in which he appeared to suggest a moral equivalence between Russia and the United States by saying that America had “lots of killers”.

Fox News, which is owned by 21st Century Fox, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, is one of the most lucrative Murdoch investments, contributing up to a quarter of its overall revenue.

But the channel has been hit by a number of personnel scandals in recent years.

Roger Ailes’s resignation last July, following a sexual harassment allegation 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.

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

The channel also lost Megyn Kelly, another high-profile anchor, who moved to rival NBC in January. She has also accused Ailes of inappropriate behaviour and has recently spoken about a culture of “silencing” at the network.