Bill O'Reilly Allegedly Leaving Fox Is The Latest Way That Women's Groups Have Resisted — And Won
After a slew of sexual harassment allegations against him surfaced in early April in a New York Times report, Bill O'Reilly is reportedly leaving Fox News, ending his 20-year stint as the face of the network that he helped popularize in the late '90s, New York Magazine reports. O'Reilly, who has adamantly denied all of the allegations, will allegedly leave Fox News just days after women's groups across the country voiced their opposition to the conservative talk show host, even gathering outside of the Fox News studios in New York City to protest.
UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, Fox News confirmed that O'Reilly would not be returning to the network. In a statement, Fox News said that they had agreed he wouldn't return "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations." O'Reilly said his departure was "disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims."
EARLIER: O'Reilly's alleged resignation would be a victory for feminists, who have continued to voice their opposition to sexist policies in large numbers since the Women's March on Washington in January. Regardless, it's unfortunate that it took years for advertisers and the network to reportedly abandon the host; after all, allegations have been made against O'Reilly for over a decade.
In January, The New York Times reported that O'Reilly and Fox News paid at least $13 million in settlements to women who claimed that O'Reilly had sexually harassed them while working for the network. In April, another woman came forward with allegations that O'Reilly made explicit comments to her when she worked for Fox News in 2008, allegedly referring to her as "hot chocolate" and reportedly ogling her breasts in private (which O'Reilly denies). O'Reilly's legal team said in a statement Tuesday: “Bill O’Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America."
The statement goes on to claim that these claims are part of an "orchestrated campaign" to destroy his reputation. However, the denial did little to convince or dissuade the public. O'Reilly's prime-time show The O'Reilly Factor lost more than half of its advertisers in a single week after the accusations surfaced, and soon after rumors began swirling that executives at the network were starting to plan a future without O'Reilly.
The New York Times report about O'Reilly came at a difficult time for women. In January, Donald Trump was sworn into office as the President of the United States, despite the fact that he publicly bragged about grabbing women's genitals without their consent (he denied ever acting on his comments). Although this seemed to prove that men are able to assume positions of power despite allegations of sexual misconduct, O'Reilly's reported ouster at Fox is a victory that proves the opposite: that women can use their collective voices to stand against a culture of sexual assault and contribute to a society in which women are heard, supported, and empowered.
Ultraviolet, a women's rights group, was one of the leading voices in organizing women across the country to call for O'Reilly's resignation. The group coordinated a demonstration outside of Fox News studios, and promoted a petition to the network that gained over 480,000 signatures. The group voiced their concerns in an open letter to Fox. An excerpt touches on the national impact of not holding men accountable.
Fox's complicity in sexual harassment is part of a larger culture that allows for and ignores sexual assault and violence against women. We urge you to choose women's safety and justice for survivors by getting rid of O'Reilly once and for all.
Again, O'Reilly has denied the allegations that have come against him and Fox News has confirmed that it will investigate the claims against O'Reilly. And on Tuesday, Fox also refused to comment on whether O'Reilly would return after his vacation. Fox has not commented on Wednesday's reports.
He is the second Fox News employee to step down because of sexual harassment allegations in the past year, following CEO Roger Ailes' departure last July (Ailes denied the allegations). Hopefully, this is will be the first step towards changing the culture not just within Fox News, but throughout the country.