Bill O’Reilly has always played a misogynist on TV, but recent revelations have shown that his shtick extends far beyond your racist uncle’s living room. Over the weekend, The New York Times published an investigation into the sexual predator behind cable infotainment’s highest rated program. Fox News has already paid out $13 million to five women in agreements that avoid litigation—or put another way—$5 million less than O’Reilly earns annually. Per the Times’ report:
The women who made allegations against Mr. O’Reilly either worked for him or appeared on his show. They have complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews.
The reporting suggests a pattern: As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.
Fox News is already under federal investigation for underreporting or misreporting sexual harassment payouts to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and now that this scandal has enveloped their most high-profile star, these problems are likely to mount. There is clearly a culture of harassment and intimidation that exists inside bullshit mountain, as several current and former employees told CNNMoney:
They’ve been told there is an anonymous hotline they can call. But they’re afraid to call it because of a belief that the company is monitoring their phones. For many female employees at Fox News these days, the mood is one of fear and disappointment.
Despite all this evidence mounting over the years, the foremost purveyors of right-wing apologism refused to do anything to change the culture eating away at a “journalistic” institution which does things like require its women to show their legs on all TV segments—assumingly to please their boss, the human version of Jabba the Hutt. Many women at Fox News thought that conditions would improve once Roger Ailes was kicked out for his own sexual harassment scandal—leaving to advise America’s toddler-in-chief—but the CNNMoney report claims that is no longer the case, and the regression to the Mad Men era has continued under the tutelage of Rupert Mudoch’s nitwit legacy kids.
But like all organic material left out to rot, sunlight will eventually push it to a point of decay, and we may have arrived at the forefront of that moment. Fox News’ ex-CFO Mark Kranz has been offered immunity by the feds in their investigation into the sexual harassment-related payments that 21st Century Fox allegedly hid from the SEC, and now, the network’s biggest ratings draw is watching advertisers sprint out the door. The first big shoe to drop on Monday was Mercedes Benz, as spokeswoman Donna Boland said that “the allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.”
Hyundai quickly followed them on Tuesday, saying that “we will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as we plan future advertising decisions.” BMW suspended their ads shortly after Hyundai bailed, and with such ubiquitous advertisers fleeing a seemingly sinking ship, they provided cover for others to follow suit. Mitsubishi, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, GlaxoSmithKline, T. Rowe Price, UNTUCKit, Allstate, Constant Contact and Sanofi—makers of products like Gold Bond and ACT mouthwash—all have suspended their advertising on The O’Reilly Factor, bringing the total to 11 as of this writing. Media Matters has compiled a list of all companies who run ads on Bill O’Reilly’s show, and if you use these products and are as horrified by these revelations as the rest of us in civilized society, reach out to these brands and let them know that you’re paying attention to their purchasing decisions, which may influence yours.
Fox News employs real journalists like Chris Wallace, Shephard Smith and Brett Baier, but they exist largely to produce the veneer of impartiality across the network, which allows them to fill most of their programming with immoral shills like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity who exist to dispense unhinged hot takes disguised as journalism. Defenders of the network argue that these opinion shows are necessary to generate revenue for the more boring and less profitable news division, and there is a certain truth to this. Buzzfeed produces listicles that induce an endless amount of derision, yet ironically create the necessary number of clicks to fund its journalistic endeavors. However, Fox News clearly packages its opinion pieces in a manipulative tone, and despite Sean Hannity’s assertion to Ted Koppel, viewers are not certain that his show is opinion-based—largely because the word “News” appears in constant rotation at the bottom of whatever screen he’s currently spewing ignorance and hatred into.
It is this same type of fraudulence which perpetuates the culture hidden behind the heavily produced TV segments at Fox News. They advertise themselves as something of a moralistic pirate ship—here to provide a necessary check to the biased mainstream media, when most of what they do is continue to breathe life into portions of the 19th and 20th century that evolution is still struggling to relegate to the dustbin of history. Fox News pundits pretend to be guided by a superior moral compass than the rest of us heathens in modern society, yet these reports reveal that many have effectively become co-conspirators to heinous criminal acts. It is no coincidence that Bill O’Reilly hosts the most popular show on cable TV, and we have a president who can admit to grabbing women “by the pussy” while facing zero repercussions. This is the culture Fox News has incubated.
Fox News is a cesspool of ignorance, misogyny, racism and hypocrisy. Not everyone who works there is subject to these bugs, or is complicit in the larger crimes orchestrated by Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda machine, but they are so far outnumbered by old world cretins that their screams of legitimacy are but a drop in the ocean of slime enveloping them. Bill O’Reilly and his ilk have done more to harm civil society than most people currently breathing, and now that actual criminal acts have corroborated the monster we all knew existed inside this supposed human being, advertisers are beginning to see where the line exists. If you are loyal to any of these brands, and are opposed to powerful men tying the success of women’s careers to their genitals, reach out to those who have happily taken your money only to hand it over to this creep, and let them know that they should join the advertisers who have already crossed the picket line before their brand becomes tied to one that condones sexual assault.
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.