Bill O’Reilly, champion of the right, scourge of the left and top draw pundit at Fox News for more than 20 years, is officially out. O’Reilly was fired by the network after a massive sexual harassment settlement was made public last week.
There have been allegations against O’Reilly for years, but those rumors took a back seat to the Fox CEO Roger Ailes getting outed for similar misconduct. Then, the first week of April, the New York Times broke a story claiming that Fox had paid more than $13 million to silence five women who would have otherwise gone to the press about “disturbing encounters” with O’Reilly.
Once the report was published, O’Reilly’s advertisers began to fall like dominoes. Though a few relatively lucrative contracts remained in place, Fox could see the writing on the wall. There was no need for them to try to protect an asset that was fast losing value. Proclaiming his innocence all the way, O’Reilly was out, and an era was officially over at Fox.
Fox leadership, including Rupert Murdoch, along with his sons Lachlan and James, released a statement they made the decision to fire O’Reilly after reviewing the charges against him. According to the Associated Press, Murdoch expressed regret that the decision would be “hard” on many remaining Fox employees.
And it sure didn’t take long for Fox to erase over 20 years of talk show dominance. The same day the announcement was made, the logo for “The O’Reilly Factor” was only “The Factor.” All indications are that this was not a surprise move by Fox, though it was a surprise to many of the network’s viewers.
O’Reilly remained defiant: “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims… But that is the unfortunate reality that many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers.”
So, now the next stage of narrative begins. The they said/she said. The women and the NYT are standing by their story. O’Reilly will predictably stand by his, as he searches for a new gig. His old timeslot will be filled by up and coming pundit Tucker Carlson, whose career saw a resurgence after Megyn Kelly left Fox. Now Carlson is getting another bump, landing O’Reilly’s coveted spot.
What will this mean for the future of Fox? Too early to tell, but the network says it will be business as usual, full steam ahead. And for O’Reilly? Jury’s still out.
Daniel Palmier is a leading Boston CEO, Real Estate Investment Manager, and Founder of UC Funds.