The scandal surrounding a New York Times expose on the $13,000,000 million in hush money settlements Fox has had to pay out in order to get past sexual harassment charges against Bill O’Reilly has cost the news network its number one host. Bill O’Reilly is gone from Fox News.
Parent company 21st Century Fox announced Wednesday that the longtime cable news anchor is stepping down from The O’Reilly Factor after 21 years in the wake of a multitude of those 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 said in a statement.
Tucker Carlson will get O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. slot. starting April 24.
O’Reilly faced a tidal wave of opposition after the New York Times reported on April 1 that he and his network’s parent company paid a total of $13 million in hush money to several women over the years who were pursuing sexual harassment claims against him. Scores of advertisers have pulled their sponsorship from O’Reilly’s top-rated show as a result.
Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represented three of O’Reilly’s accusers, claimed victory: “This is what happens when women speak our truth: we can slay dragons … Fox News should have fired him in 2004 when the first complaint was made, but at least they did it now. They did it because we persisted.”
Still, O’Reilly’s landing will be pretty cushy: He settled his Fox News contract for about $13 million, according to The New York Times.
O’Reilly exiting could be a major blow to Fox News. According to the L.A. Times, Fox News could see a ratings decline of 25 percent overall due to his departure. During the first quarter of the year, O’Reilly’s program averaged 4 million viewers.
O’Reilly has been on vacation and was originally scheduled to return on Monday. During his absence, his time slot’s viewership has dropped about 26 percent while guests hosts such as Greg Gutfield, Dana Perino, and Eric Bolling filled in. A guest-hosted version of The Factor will continue for the remainder of this week.
This marks the second major on-air talent to leave Fox News in recent months, with rising star Megyn Kelly exiting in January to accept a new morning show gig this fall on NBC.
Fox News first launched a primetime show with O’Reilly in 1996 called The O’Reilly Report. The program was later rebranded The O’Reilly Factor in 1998. The show has aired an estimated 5,321 episodes.
Fox News chiefs Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch sent a memo to the network’s staff praising O’Reilly’s ratings legacy: “By ratings standards, Bill O’Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news. In fact, his success by any measure is indisputable. Fox News has demonstrated again and again the strength of its talent bench. We have full confidence the network will continue to be a powerhouse in cable news.”
The Murdochs added: “Lastly, and most importantly, we want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect.”