Ever since it was revealed a couple weeks ago by The New York Times that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News paid out $13 million to five separate women in sexual harassment settlements, the sharks have been circling Fox News’ highest rated host. It began with his advertisers leaving en masse soon after the news dropped, followed by a slow, steady march of reports that Rupert Murdoch was considering getting rid of him.
That drip drip drip of stories has turned into a fire hose, as three outlets reported yesterday that Fox News is beginning the steps to rid themselves of their highest profile sexual harasser. Gabriel Sherman of NYMag first reported that “The Murdochs are turning against Bill O’Reilly,” then several hours later, Brian Stelter of CNN said that Bill O’Reilly has begun negotiating over his exit from Fox News. Joe Flint of The Wall Street Journal capped the day’s festivities by reporting that “Fox News is preparing to cut ties with star anchor Bill O’Reilly.”
O’Reilly’s camp denied these reports to Stelter, but the writing was on the wall the second that over half his advertisers abandoned him. His ratings may have skyrocketed since news of the scandal dropped, but an army of eyeballs doesn’t mean much when all you can sell them are a bunch of niche products that no one’s ever heard of.
Perhaps all of Bill O'Reilly's main advertisers were just following his sage advice from when Ludacris was named Pepsi's spokesman, and O'Reilly was offended by the rapper's lyrics enough to speak out against the decision.
After Pepsi dropped Ludacris, O’Reilly said that “Americans should let the merchants of bad taste know that hiring corrupters and incompetents is not acceptable.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
UPDATE: Shortly after this story posted, Gabriel Sherman of NYMag reported that Bill O’Reilly is officially out at Fox News, and the only sticking points left in their negotiations are money and whether O’Reilly will get to have a final sign off to his viewers (Murdoch is supposedly leaning towards yes).
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.