Fox News’ number one host’s ousting resembles that of Roger Ailes – both were accused of sexually harassing women long before they were shown the door
In the summer of 2016, as sexual harassment allegations against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes were piling up, a former Fox News host filed a lawsuit claiming that she had been subjected to harassment not just from Ailes, but from Bill O’Reilly, the network’s number one host.
Bill O’Reilly out at Fox News after sexual harassment claims and ad boycott READ MORE
And that wasn’t all. According to the former host, Andrea Tantaros, Fox News executives not only knew about the misconduct, they acted aggressively to stifle her complaints.
Six months later and Tantaros’ accusations, which Fox News, Ailes and O’Reilly deny, have foreshadowed the contours of The O’Reilly Factor host’s downfall. 21st Century Fox has severed ties with its primetime star, its hand forced not only by the disclosure that three other women recently accused O’Reilly of sexual misconduct, but by the news that he and Fox News’ parent company had repeatedly settled complaints of harassment, to the tune of $13m.
Two of those settlements occurred after the ousting of Ailes following a tidal wave of harassment claims against him by former colleagues going back decades – which seemed to give the lie to Fox News’ promises to clean up the corporate culture that apparently shielded Ailes for a large part of his career.
O’Reilly’s downfall has in fact closely resembled that of his former boss, who left Fox News with a multi-million dollar exit package last summer. Both men had been publicly accused of sexually harassing women at Fox News long before they were shown the door. And both men withstood those scandals until their accusers grew in number and volume and the accusations began to ensnare other Fox News executives.
O’Reilly’s demise began on 1 April, when the New York Times revealed the existence of several secret settlements with women who accused O’Reilly of verbal or sexual harassment. In the weeks following, 21st Century Fox faced growing pressure to remove O’Reilly from fleeing advertisers and liberal groups that organized protests at the Fox News headquarters.
O’Reilly has denied the accusations against him and said that he agreed to settle claims of wrongdoing to avoid a protracted controversy and “to spare my children”.
On Wednesday, wishing “only the best” for his former employer, O’Reilly said in a statement, “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”
Marc E Kasowitz, a lawyer for the former Fox News star, said in a statement on Monday that his client “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America”. Kasowitz claims he has evidence that organizers of the campaign to remove O’Reilly are financially motivated, and has threatened to release it.
The Times’ report caused dozens of advertisers to flee O’Reilly’s show. Social media and liberal organizations have brought pressure to bear on the companies that continued to air ads during his program, and Fox News headquarters in Midtown Manhattan has been beset by on-site protests.
Bill O’Reilly appears on The O’Reilly Factor on January 18, 2007. Photograph: Jeff Christensen/AP