Reports are in that Bill O'Reilly is out at Fox News. The long-running prime-time anchor is leaving after settling 14 years worth of sexual harassment claims filed against him during his tenure at the conservative news outlet. And unlike previous stories of O'Reilly's reportedly questionable behavior, the revelations reported by the Times resulted in something of utmost significance to the corporate world: the loss of advertising dollars.
The year 2016 was not a favorable one for those who oppose sexual harassment. The biggest elephant in any room on that issue was now-President Trump himself. After the infamous Access Hollywood tape leaked, wherein he advocated what constitutes sexual assault, Trump still managed to win the election and become POTUS after brushing it off as "locker room talk." The message that sent about the seriousness with which most Americans approach pesky **little** issues like sexual harassment and sexual assault was not lost on millions of women (and men). And that makes the real-world consequences for Bill O'Reilly even more meaningful.
While Trump and his supporters often decry the "fake news" media, this is an example of journalism working at its highest range. O'Reilly holds (held?) enormous sway in the right-wing media world. His show was the most viewed nightly program of any cable news network. The O'Reilly Factor first aired more than two decades ago, in 1996. O'Reilly himself has been a presence in the news world for even longer, working five years on air at Inside Edition before joining Fox News.
Another woman has reported sexual harassment allegations against Bill O'Reilly https://t.co/LNoqTFEkSm— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 19, 2017
On top of his already estimable resume, O'Reilly had the mighty fortress of Fox News' money and lawyers behind him. After all, the sexual harassment allegations detailed by the recent New York Times expose were not the host's first brush with workplace accusations. Back in 2004, Andrea Mackris, a former assistant producer on The O'Reilly Factor, filed suit against her old boss on the charge of sexual harassment. Although he denied any truth to the allegation, O'Reilly settled for somewhere between $2 million to $10 million.
This seemed like a solid MO for how to deal with sexual harassment claims. Pay up for the women to be quiet. Then along came the New York Times' April 1 story.
Part of what made the Times' article different is how it cast O'Reilly's reported actions in the wider context of the atmosphere at Fox News itself. Early on, authors Emily Steele and Michael S. Schmidt reference the ousting of former chairman Roger Ailes, who was forced from Fox News following several sexual harassment charges of his own, which he denied. Later, the article links back to a previous Times story from July 2016, which outlined how other women were allegedly sexually harassed by a range of Fox News employees. Bustle has reached out to Fox News for comment.
This kind of building coverage that allows reporters to stay with a story over the long haul is exactly the sort of reporting needed in today's era of 24/7 news bytes. It is all too easy to forget details, and how they connect, when confronted with the ceaseless deluge of "breaking" headlines.
As the New York Times has proven, staying focused can effect real-world change. Considering the massive audience reach of O'Reilly, I believe it is nothing short of a service to society to have him removed (assuming the allegations against him are true). Refusing to give up on this story led to a tipping point — advertisers and regular Americans simply had enough. And it is precisely this kind of dogged devotion that can help bring about justice in other realms, and restore America's confidence in what good journalism can do.