Fox News star and host of The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly, has been thrown into the fire of public scrutiny yet again this week after another woman has come forward claiming that O’Reilly sexually harassed her while she was a clerical worker at Fox News in 2008.
This is just the latest instance in which O’Reilly has been accused of sexual misconduct. If you remember, the New York Times reported that Fox News has spent $13 million over the years to dismiss five different lawsuits over O’Reilly’s alleged harassment, which wasn’t exactly the best PR move for Fox News or O’Reilly but now that these revelations have come to light, it’s starting to have very real consequences for the news network.
In this new lawsuit, the clerical worker at Fox News claimed that O’Reilly consistently harassed her by making animal noises at her, staring at her cleavage, and calling her “hot chocolate.” Her attorney Lisa Bloom has said that the woman is not seeking any money in the lawsuit, just accountability.
After the New York Times report, many major advertisers pulled their ads from O’Reilly’s show and last week, O’Reilly was abruptly pulled off the air 15 minutes early and then he took a sudden “vacation” from the program. He hasn’t been back on the air since.
New York Magazine also reported that three sources with knowledge of the discussions said that while no official decision has been made, the network is leaning towards not bringing O’Reilly back on the air. One insider said that Fox executives are alarmed by the steep decline in advertisement revenue, claiming that the situation is worse than that of Glenn Beck, who was also ousted at Fox after advertisers also pulled their spots from Beck’s show in 2011.
O’Reilly is by far the most prominent figure at Fox News but at this point, it doesn’t seem to really matter. Keep in mind that when Beck departed from Fox News, he actually was very popular and had great ratings consistently. However, when advertisers begin to pull out, it can have big financial consequences. Fox News is not a nonprofit, so if you’re not making them money, you’re not likely to stick around for long, regardless of your notoriety or ratings.
In all fairness, The O’Reilly Factor makes around $170 million every year, so settling these suits for $13 million doesn’t seem like too big of a hit. O’Reilly himself makes $18 million annually but again, that $170 million will likely see a big drop if advertisers continue to flee from the program.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that keeping O’Reilly on the air could have more financial impact on NewsCorp (who owns Fox News) than just ad-revenue. The Murdoch family, who run Newscorp, currently have a $14 billion deal pending to attain the European pay-TV provider called Sky. On May 16th, British media regulator OfCom is set to determine whether the Murdochs are “fit and proper” to own such a large media provider. Removing O’Reilly from Fox News could help appease critics and help close the Sky deal.
So on top of the public backlash, the decline in advertisers, and the lawsuits, now there is a huge $14 billion deal that could fall through the cracks if O’Reilly remains at Fox News. It’s not a good look to keep an employee in the face of sexual harassment allegations and OfCom could potentially see that as a reason the Murdochs wouldn’t be “fit and proper” to own Sky.
There hasn’t been any formal announcement that O’Reilly is out at Fox but I would be very very surprised if he returned to the air. The public backlash already from this has been overwhelming and given all the financial consequences that Fox could face if they keep him, I just don’t see it happening. We have probably seen the last of Bill O’Reilly at Fox News.