Fox News has axed its star host Bill O’Reilly following allegations of sexual harassment.
O’Reilly said in an April 1 statement he had been unfairly targeted because of his public prominence. Marc Kasowitz, O’Reilly’s lawyer, said in a statement on Tuesday the television host “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America”.
In a statement on Thursday morning (NZ time), Fox said it would part ways with O’Reilly.
“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.”
* O’Reilly cost Fox $18.5m in settlements
* Ex-Fox News host Gretchen Carlson settles sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox boss Roger Ailes
* Andrea Tantaros sues Fox News, calling it a ‘sex-fuelled, Playboy Mansion-like cult’
It is not known exactly how Fox News will handle O’Reilly’s exit or whether he would be allowed to say goodbye to viewers on the air. Fox said Tucker Carlson would take over the prime-time slot.
A representative for O’Reilly, who has been off the air on vacation since April 11, declined to comment.
A Vatican photograph showed O’Reilly shaking hands with Pope Francis after a general audience on Wednesday, but it was not clear if the Pope knew who the television host was.
The New York Times reported on April 1 that Fox and O’Reilly, a 20-year veteran of the conservative cable network, paid five women a total of US$13 million (NZ$18m) to settle harassment claims. The five women who received settlements either worked for O’Reilly or appeared as guests on his program, according to the New York Times story.
O’Reilly said in the statement at the time that he had settled only to spare his children from the controversy.
O’Reilly’s show, The O’Reilly Factor, is the top-rated show on Fox News. According to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media, it brought in US$147.13 million in advertising revenue in 2016. Twenty-First Century Fox’s last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2016, brought in a total of US$7.65 billion in advertising revenue.
But after the New York Times report, advertisers including BMW of North America, Allstate Corp, French pharmaceuticals maker Sanofi SA and T. Rowe Price , pulled their advertising from O’Reilly’s primetime show. O’Reilly’s exit follows that of former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, who was forced to resign in July after being accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women, including former anchor Gretchen Carlson. Ailes has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Twenty-First Century Fox has tapped the law firm Paul, Weiss Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which also looked into the allegations against Ailes, to investigate O’Reilly’s conduct.
The O’Reilly Factor is the most watched programme on Fox News and is coming off the highest-rated first quarter in its history, averaging 4 million viewers, according to Nielsen.