Bill O’Reilly is currently on a “previously scheduled vacation” (yeah, sure) while Rupert Murdoch decides his fate after The New York Times revealed that Fox News and Bill O’Reilly made $13 million in payments to five women to settle sexual harassment allegations against their highest rated TV personality. Soon after, O’Reilly began hemorrhaging advertisers, despite the fact that his ratings have skyrocketed since the scandal broke.
Mo Elleithee is the executive director at the Georgetown Institute of Politics & Public Service at the McCourt School, and he regularly appears on Fox News—especially their flagship Sunday show with Chris Wallace. Today, he initiated what will hopefully be a cascading effect across the company, and called for Bill O’Reilly’s dismissal from Fox News.
Elleithee is also the former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton, so his words clearly don’t carry the same weight with Fox News’ viewers that a shill like Sean Hannity’s would, but this is still significant. The cable news punditocracy is largely risk-averse, due to the fact that spouting opinions on TV without any repercussions is one hell of a cushy gig, so anyone in the network’s regular rotation speaking out against their sacred cow proves we have reached an important crossroads in this saga.
Elleithee wouldn’t publicly cross his employer if they were unified behind O’Reilly, and the reports that women at Fox News are dismayed certainly gave him cover to speak out. There is a culture of fear and intimidation towards everyone at Fox News, but particularly against those with two X chromosomes. Gretchen Carlson was practically hazed off the network, and there is very likely a split between the Murdochian cretins who think that pussy grabbing is just good old fashioned American fun, and the members of civil society who still have the stomach to accept a paycheck from the 9th circle of hell.
This isn’t a huge deal since Elleithee is a Democrat, but it’s certainly not a small one either. Every person who publicly speaks out against O’Reilly creates room for the next person to do so, and the next, and the next, etc…etc…etc…At some point, someone with honor AND real pull inside of Fox News will put their foot down (looking at you Chris Wallace and/or Shepard Smith), as Fox News’ hyper-partisan reputation already makes life difficult enough for the handful of newsmen and women they keep around to maintain the facade of objectivity, and Bill O’Reilly will be forced out in a move that will hopefully begin Fox News’ long slog out of their 19th century worldview.
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.