The 21-year career of Bill O’Reilly at the Fox News Channel is apparently coming to an end.
The program he anchored, The O’Reilly Factor, is the longtime highest-rated show in cable news,
[See update below]
CEO Rupert Murdoch’s sons James and Lachlan have reportedly decided, however, that Bill has to go amid sexual harassment allegations.
O’Reilly, 67 is currently vacationing in Italy, with a stop at Vatican City, and is due to return to the anchor desk on April 24, but he may not even get a chance to preside over a farewell broadcast in the “no-spin zone” when he gets back to the states.
The latest development in Bill O’Reilly’s FNC career is contained in a column by New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman, who usually — but not always — has good intel about the inner workings at the cable news powerhouse.
Bill O’Reilly is currently subject to an internal investigation by a law firm after the New York Times reported that he or his employer paid out $13 million to confidentially settle sexual harassment claims by five women. After the Times had published its account, several other women complained about alleged misbehavior. Advertisers have been bailing on his show in droves since the Times-published allegations, switching their commercials to other Fox News shows. Rating have surged with O’Reilly in the actor chair since the Times revelation, however, and his new book tops the best-sellers list.
According to New York Magazine, the situation is fast moving and nearing a resolution that would lead to a cancellation of The O’Reilly Factor.
“Wednesday morning, according to sources, executives are holding emergency meetings to discuss how they can sever the relationship with the country’s highest-rated cable-news host without causing collateral damage to the network. The board of Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the matter. Sources briefed on the discussions say O’Reilly’s exit negotiations are moving quickly. Right now, a key issue on the table is whether he would be allowed to say good-bye to his audience, perhaps the most loyal in all of cable (O’Reilly’s ratings have ticked up during the sexual-harassment allegations). Fox executives are leaning against allowing him to have a sign-off, sources say.”
Bill O’Reilly just inked a multiyear deal with Fox, paying him $20 million annually, so agreeing upon a severance package is a significant issue in the controversy. O’Reilly stands to walk away with a fortune.
O’Reilly’s lawyer insists that the whole thing is an attempt by far-left pressure groups to silence O’Reilly, which could still be the case even if the allegations against his client are true.
Fox News contributor Deneen Borelli, who says O’Reilly never acted inappropriately when she was on the show, compared the attacks on O’Reilly to “a dog pile.”
“I can’t say what’s in the hearts and minds of Bill’s accusers, but I hope they’re not taking advantage of the news cycle and trying to cash in,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
As alluded to above, The O’Reilly Factor which airs at 8 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, is the longtime top-rated show on the very successful cable network and across the entire cable news universe, generating about $450 million in advertising revenue in the past three years. “The O’Reilly Factor has been the most-watched program in the cable news landscape for 14 years, recently clocking its highest-rated quarter ever,” Deadline Hollywood noted.
“Many would argue he’s not just the 8:00 p.m. host, but an ambassador of the network via seemingly regular appearances on the broadcast networks, multiple best-selling books and nationwide tours with Dennis Miller and [Jesse] Watters doing sold-out comedy shows,” TheHill media columnist Joe Concha observed.
Another big decision for Fox News is who will take over the key 8 p.m. platform if it turns out that Bill O’Reilly is really out.
Fox seamlessly replaced star Megyn Kelly with Tucker Carlson, whose show has outperformed Kellly’s at 9 p.m. Given those results, it’s conceivable that Carlson could slide into the 8 p.m. slot. It’s also possible in the shakeup that Sean Hannity could return to his former 9 p.m. time slot from 10 p.m. The network could also launch an entirely new. multi-anchor show as it did with The Five when Glenn Beck left FNC.
Fox News seems to have a deep bench. Other potential hosts to take over for Bill O’Reilly include Eric Bolling and Dana Perino (both of whom are co-hosts of The Five), Kimberly Guilfoyle (also on The Five), Greg Gutfeld, Jesse Watters, and Trish Regan. Both Bolling and Perino have sat in for O’Reilly, with Bolling being the most frequent substitute host. Bolling is a strong Trump supporter, Perino less so.
Watch this space for updates on the status of Bill O’Reilly and The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News.
[UPDATE]: In a memo signed by the three Murdochs, Fox News has confirmed that Bill O’Reilly won’t be back.
“After a through 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. The decision follows an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel.”
[Featured Image by Jeff Christensen/AP Images]