Fox News has removed veteran show host and author Bill O’Reilly from the network. In addition, his long-running show has been cancelled. O’Reilly’s departure came just a day after an unnamed woman accused him of sexual and racial harassment. She accused O’Reilly of occasionally stopping by her desk and referring to her as “hot chocolate.” The move came just after reports emerged that Fox News had paid out $13 million in settlements for other sexual harassment claims made against O’Reilly.
The sons of owner Rupert Murdoch held meetings this week to decide on an action regarding O’Reilly, who has long been regarded as one of their top talents. Their decision was announced in a statement sent to employees on Wednesday by 21st Century Fox.
O’Reilly released a statement that he thanked Fox News for his tenure on the network. He wrote that he lost his job “due to unfounded claims.” He was vacationing in Italy when the news broke.
O’Reilly got his start as anchor on Inside Edition in 1989. In 1996, he moved over to Fox News and anchored The O’Reilly Report, which would later become The O’Reilly Factor. Despite rumors that had circulated for weeks, Fox News had stuck with O’Reilly and had even renewed his contract.
The number of companies that have ceased to advertise on O’Reilly’s show tops 50. Among them were Bayer, Lexus, and T. Rowe Price. Within a 24-hour period, more than a dozen pulled out. Below is a partial list:
Ainsworth Pet Nutrition/Rachael Ray Nutrish
The Wonderful Company
Society of Human Resources Management
2. $13 million in lawsuits
O’Reilly and Fox News settled five sexual harassment claims for over $13 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times wrote that five women received payouts from the two parties “in exchange for agreeing not to pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him.”
NYT reported that all of the female accusers had worked for him or were guests on his show. They accused him of unwanted advances, lewd remarks, and “phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating,” according to documents obtained by NYT. NYT interviewed former The O’Reilly Factor guest Wendy Walsh, who claimed that she did not receive further invitations to appear on the show after she turned down O’Reilly’s invitation to his hotel room.
After the accusations were revealed, O’Reilly released a statement claiming that as a “prominent” figure in the media, he is as vulnerable to accusations and lawsuits. No incidents involving the women went through Fox News’ human resources department, he wrote.
“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. But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”
3. O’Reilly has denied claims of domestic abuse laid by his ex-wife
O’Reilly filed a lawsuit in 2004 against a former The O’Reilly Factor producer, Andrea Mackris. The suit alleged that Mackris committed extortion when she threatened to file a lawsuit against him unless he paid her $60 million due to sexual harassment allegations. Mackris sued him seeking $60 million in damages, just hours after O’Reilly filed his lawsuit. The complaint alleged that the TV host “advised her to use a vibrator and told her about sexual fantasies involving her” while speaking on the telephone. They settled out of court, according to the New York Times, for about $9 million.
In his child custody battle with ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy, who alleged domestic violence, their daughter allegedly told an investigator that she saw her dad choking her mom and “dragging her down the stairs unaware that she was watching.” O’Reilly denied the 2015 allegations and said they were “100-percent false.” He lost the custody case in February 2016.
4. Rep. Maxine Waters objected to O’Reilly’s description of her hair
On Fox & Friends, O’Reilly described Rep. Maxine Waters’ speech on the floor in the House of Representatives by saying that he “didn’t hear a word she said,” O’Reilly said that he was instead “was looking at the James Brown wig” on her head. He reiterated his remarks, saying “if we have a picture of James Brown — it’s the same wig.”
His remarks prompted accusations of racism and sexism. Apologizing, O’Reilly released a statement:
As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs. I said that again today on Fox & Friends calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately, I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.
Waters responded to O’Reilly’s attack on Twitter, saying that she “isn’t going anywhere.”
I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I'm not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork
O’Reilly called the decision by 21st Century Fox “tremendously disheartening” in his statement. But that does not mean that he has no options. He may segue over to a rival nework or to either satellite radio or a syndicated show. In addition, he has his books and club memberships to sell.
Back at Fox News, Tucker Carlson will move to the 8 p.m. slot, while The Five (Fox News regulars) moves from its afternoon slot to 9 p.m.
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.