After much speculation, 21st Century Fox (parent company of Fox News Channel) confirmed Wednesday afternoon that longtime host Bill O’Reilly is no longer employed with the organization.
Over the past several years, O’Reilly has been accused of sexual harassment by various women, which triggered a massive backlash against Fox News and resulted in a slew of advertisers fleeing his talk-news show, The O’Reilly Factor.
In a statement, 21st Century Fox had this to say about O’Reilly’s ousting:
“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.”
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There was no further information provided about O’Reilly’s next move — if any — or to what extent the sexual harassment accusations were the catalyst for the parting of ways.
Twitter users weren’t wishy-washy about their feelings, with many overtly supporting the pundit’s ouster, including an O’Reilly sexual harassment accuser’s lawyer, Lisa Bloom.
The New York Times reported that O’Reilly’s support from the Murdoch family, which owns 21st Century Fox, appeared to be waning over the past few days.
The investigation into O’Reilly’s behaviour was sparked after a sexual harassment claim was made against the pundit by Wendy Walsh, who was once a regular guest on his show.
Walsh alleged that O’Reilly never came through on a commitment to help her secure a job with Fox News after she turned down his invitation to a hotel room in 2013.
She phoned in her complaint to Fox News’ corporate hotline alongside her lawyer Lisa Bloom in a video that was posted to YouTube earlier this month.
The investigation also came amid a New York Times report that O’Reilly or Fox News had paid out as much as $13 million to five women in exchange for their agreement not to take him to court or to speak about their allegations publicly.
O’Reilly responded to that story by saying he was “vulnerable to lawsuits” because of his prominent media profile.
The network also backed him at the time, saying “Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”
O’Reilly was Fox News’ top revenue producer, according to research firm Kantar Media. He brought in over $178 million in ad dollars in 2015 and $118.6 million in the first nine months of 2016. The O’Reilly Factor is the lynchpin of Fox News’ primetime lineup, delivering approximately three to four million viewers per night.
The company has not announced any plans to replace O’Reilly or what the next steps are in determining the proper replacement for The O’Reilly Factor.
Fox News itself makes up one-fifth of parent company 21st Century Fox’s profit, according to estimates from Anthony DiClemete, a media analyst with the Nomura investment bank.
The following internal memo was issued to Fox News Channel employees on Wednesday:
“We’d like to address questions about Bill O’Reilly’s future at Fox News. After a thorough and careful review of allegations against him, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Mr. O’Reilly will not return to the Fox News Channel.
This decision follows an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel.
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 that the network will continue to be a powerhouse in cable news.
Lastly, and most importantly, we want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect.
Rupert, Lachlan, James
With files from Jesse Ferreras and The Associated Press