On Wednesday afternoon, Fox News officially cut “The O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly. This decision followed a New York Times story early this month detailing sexual assault lawsuits O’Reilly settled in the past.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox released in a statement.
1. Advertisers abandoned the show.
Shortly after the New York Times exposé, over twenty advertisers announced they were withdrawing ads from “The O’Reilly Factor.” These included Mitsubishi Motors, which spent about $2.1 million for ads on O’Reilly’s show in 2016, making it the show’s fifth-largest advertiser.
Fox News announced that it was working with advertisers, shifting their buys to run on other shows.
A few advertisers actually announced that they would not be withdrawing from the show, insisting that they were “evaluating” their media buys on the basis of ratings and reaching key audiences.
2. Viewers didn’t abandon the show.
“The O’Reilly Factor” averaged 3.71 million viewers over the five nights following the Times story, according to the Nielsen company. That actually represented a 12 percent increase over the 3.31 million viewers O’Reilly averaged the week before.
This particular show consistently got Fox News its best ratings, drawing almost 4 million viewers a night and generating more than $446 million in advertising revenue between 2014 and 2016, according to Kantar Media.
Indeed, 21st Century Fox recently extended O’Reilly’s contract for about $18 million a year. The host’s old contract would have concluded at the end of 2017.
Despite the scandal, O’Reilly continued to attract viewers.
3. President Trump defended him.
Shortly after the Times exposé, President Donald Trump defended Bill O’Reilly — in an interview with The New York Times.
“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” Trump, who has appeared on O’Reilly’s show many times in the past, told the Times. The president insisted that the Fox host should not have paid the $13 million to settle cases involving five separate women who alleged O’Reilly sexually assaulted them.
“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled,” Trump declared. “Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
In saying so, the president was echoing O’Reilly’s own defense. “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” the Fox host declared in a statement. He noted that “in my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.”
4. O’Reilly took a “vacation” on April 11.
Despite the president’s defense and the loyal viewers, O’Reilly left the air after April 11, when he announced plans for a vacation. While he had planned to take the week off, his vacation was originally going to start later.
O’Reilly’s supporters alleged that the advertiser boycott was being driven in large part by liberal media watchdog group Media Matters and Mary Pat Bonner, a fundraiser with ties to Hillary Clinton. Indeed, liberal groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Women’s March were calling for O’Reilly’s head shortly after the Times exposé.
Naturally, however, O’Reilly’s scandal followed a similar story about the former Fox News chairman and chief executive, Roger Ailes, who resigned last July. The fact that liberal groups pushed O’Reilly’s ouster does not disprove the allegations against him.
5. O’Reilly’s not giving up.
Despite the fact that Bill O’Reilly is finished with Fox News, his lawyer went on the offensive Tuesday night, threatening a release of “irrefutable” evidence that liberal organizations colluded to destroy the former Fox host.
“Bill O’Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America,” declared O’Reilly’s attorney, Marc E. Kasowitz, in a statement. “This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons.”
“That evidence will be put forth shortly and it is irrefutable,” Kasowitz forebodingly declared.
If Kasowitz indeed possesses such evidence, it might behoove him to release it quickly. O’Reilly may be gone from Fox News, but it seems he won’t be going down without a fight.