×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fox News Poised to Drop Bill O’Reilly Amid Sexual Harassment Scandal

Fox News Channel is poised to end the 21-year tenure of Bill O’Reilly on the news cabler amid a cascade of sexual harassment allegations.

O’Reilly’s exit from the network he has been with almost since its inception is expected to be official later this week. The Murdoch clan that controls Fox News had originally backed the top-rated host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” but the drumbeat of allegations of harassment from multiple women during the past three weeks has proven untenable for parent company 21st Century Fox.

Like the ouster last summer of Fox News chairman-CEO Roger Ailes, O’Reilly’s apparent downfall is a milestone for the industry and a signal of the second-generation Murdoch leadership now steering Fox. It’s a dizzying turn of events for a TV veteran who has long banked on a loyal following and his stature as an influential voice in national politics.

O’Reilly’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, asserted that the host has been the target of a “brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America,” fueled by “far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons.”

Fox News declined to comment on a report by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday evening that it was preparing to cut its ties to O’Reilly. A source close to O’Reilly on Tuesday afternoon said there were no exit negotiations underway, but the tide appeared to shift just a few hours later.

The groundswell of pressure on O’Reilly and the leaders of 21st Century Fox started April 1 when the New York Times published a detailed report of $13 million in settlements that O’Reilly and Fox News had paid out to five women. The report sparked advertiser defections and public pressure campaigns by organizations such as UltraViolet and Color of Change.

O’Reilly has been on vacation from his show since April 12. He had been scheduled to return on April 24, but multiple sources indicated that it was unlikely he would return to his regular slot as host of the nightly 8 p.m. hour. It was not entirely clear of O’Reilly would be afforded the opportunity for a farewell broadcast on Fox News’ air.

21st Century Fox patriarch Rupert Murdoch, now chairman of Fox News, was said to have favored backing O’Reilly, whose popularity was the key driver in taking Fox News to the top of the cable news rankings in the early 2000s. But son James Murdoch, now CEO of 21st Century Fox, was said to have pushed for the opposite amid the mushrooming scandal that led to more than 60 advertisers defecting from “O’Reilly Factor” just days after the Times report.

On Tuesday, an anonymous African-American woman claimed through attorney Lisa Bloom to have endured sexual and racially charged comments from O’Reilly while working for Fox in 2008.

Industry observers said the dynamic around O’Reilly was becoming too much of a liability for a company of 21st Century Fox’s size and scope. Not only would the company be vulnerable to more lawsuits from women claiming harassment, but the taint of the scandal could impact Fox’s businesses in other areas. A chief concern is Fox’s pending $14 billion buyout of the remaining interest in European satellite giant Sky, which is now being reviewed by U.K. regulators.

O’Reilly’s expected departure promises to leave Fox News with a big hole in its long-dominant primetime lineup. “The O’Reilly Factor” in recent months has averaged nearly 4 million viewers a night, riding the surge of interest in politics sparked by the historic 2016 presidential campaign. Fox News also runs the risk of a backlash from O’Reilly’s loyal viewers, who may shun the network entirely, particularly if O’Reilly lands at a rival TV or digital platform.

More TV

  • Matt Walsh

    'Veep' Star Matt Walsh to Lead ABC Comedy Pilot 'Happy Accident'

    Matt Walsh has been tapped for a lead role in the upcoming ABC single-camera comedy pilot “Happy Accident.” In the series, two Pittsburgh families – a father (Walsh) with three adult daughters, and a hotel lounge singer with her med student son – are forced together after a decades-old secret is revealed. Walsh currently stars in [...]

  • Jane Fonda

    'Grace and Frankie' Renewed for Season 6 at Netflix

    Netflix has renewed “Grace and Frankie” for a sixth season ahead of the Season 5 premiere this Friday. The series stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as the titular characters who found their lives turned upside down when their husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, respectively) revealed they were gay and left the [...]

  • CBS' Armando Nunez to Receive Variety

    CBS' Armando Nunez to Receive Variety International Achievement in TV Award

    CBS Corp. veteran Armando Nuñez will be honored in April with Variety‘s International Achievement in TV Award at the MipTV conference in Cannes. The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated leadership and innovation in the international television marketplace. Nuñez, president and CEO of CBS Global Distribution Group and CBS’ Chief Content Licensing Officer, has spent more than [...]

  • CBS News

    NAACP Slams CBS News' 2020 Team's Lack of Black Representation (EXCLUSIVE)

    The NAACP has slammed CBS News for not including any African-American journalists on its 2020 election coverage team. CBS News came under fire over the weekend after an associate producer tweeted out an image of the news outlet’s 2020 team. In a statement obtained exclusively by Variety, a spokesperson for the NAACP said CBS News’ lineup “proves the voting [...]

  • Mic Alum Marc Paskin Joins UTA

    Mic Alum Marc Paskin Joins UTA News & Broadcast Wing

    Marc Paskin, an alum of ABC News and Mic, has joined UTA’s News & Broadcast division as an agent. Based in New York, Paskin will focus on finding next-generation journalism stars and those who work in the converging worlds of TV and digital. “As is all of media, the news business is evolving rapidly and [...]

  • Eagles Panthers Thursday Night Football

    Seth Winter Will Lead Sports Ad Sales for New Fox (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Murdoch family’s new Fox needs Madison Avenue to buy commercials in an abundance of sports broadcasts. Seth Winter will take on the job of selling them. Winter, the former head of NBC Sports ad sales, is joining Fox in a similar role, taking over a critical position at the company as it focuses more [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content