Contrary to what his detractors expected, Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News talk show is becoming more popular than ever. This despite the boycott being staged by more than 50 advertisers of his The O’Reilly Factor.
It now looks like those seeking O’Reilly’s dismissal from Fox News Channel will be sorely disappointed. Though dozens of advertisers have fled Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program, the show has actually experienced a surge in ratings since news broke about the sexual harassment allegations against the political commentator.
At the beginning of this month, the New York Times came out with a piece on the various verbal and sexual harassment allegations brought against O’Reilly. According to the NYT, Fox News and Bill O’Reilly have paid out about $13 million so far to at least five different women who have complained about O’Reilly’s behavior.
The allegations against O’Reilly came from women who have either worked for him or have guested on his show. According to the New York Times, documents and interviews revealed that the complaints against the Fox News host cover a wide range of inappropriate behavior, from lewd comments to unwanted sexual advances to phone calls in which O’Reilly reportedly sounded as though he was masturbating.
Not long after this information was released, two The O’Reilly Factor advertisers — Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai — announced that they would no longer advertise on O’Reilly’s show. In an email, Donna Boland, manager of corporate communications at Mercedes-Benz, explained the company’s decision.
“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 also pointed to the “recent and disturbing” allegations against Bill O’Reilly as the reason behind why they were pulling their ads from The O’Reilly Factor.
“We had upcoming advertising spots on the show, but are reallocating them.”
The backlash swiftly grew from these initial reactions, swelling into a full boycott that now involves such major advertisers as GlaxoSmithKline, Lexus, Allstate, Angie’s List, and Eli Lilly. Currently, over 50 companies have stated that they will not advertise on any of Fox’s most popular programs. These companies include Geico, Jaguar, Mitsubishi, Pfizer, Sanofi, Subaru, Verizon, and many others. On Friday, The O’Reilly Factor had only 10 national advertisers, down from 55 on Monday night.
Clearly, Bill O’Reilly is facing a major challenge. And yet, this latest backlash and huge advertiser boycott may not be enough to get him off the air. As the New York Daily News points out, the controversy even seems to have helped The O’Reilly Factor become more popular than it was before. Since advertisers began removing their ads, the Fox News show has enjoyed a 14 percent ratings bump.
But the bigger reason O’Reilly isn’t going anywhere is that he reportedly has the support of Fox News Channel chairman Rupert Murdoch, as well as those of Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan. Bill O’Reilly is, after all, the most effective audience draw on Fox News. CNN says that about 4 million people watch The O’Reilly Factor every night. The talk show reportedly rakes in over $100 million a year in advertiser cash, making it one of the most profitable cable news programs today.
On top of the ratings surge, the Murdoch backing, and the formidable viewership, there’s another reason Bill O’Reilly probably isn’t in any danger of losing his job. The O’Reilly Factor host has a lot of friends in high places, including the President himself, who even defended O’Reilly this week.
Bill O’Reilly, who joined Fox News in 1996, is known as a conservative commentator. Like him, most of his viewers are white, male, conservative, and over 65.
[Featured Image by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images]