After weeks of speculation, 21st Century Fox confirmed that Bill O'Reilly will not return to his eponymous, network-leading news show after a vacation he announced on April 11. The O'Reilly Factor found itself in hot water after The New York Times reported on O'Reilly's sexual harassment-related settlements at the beginning of April, and the show quickly saw an exodus of advertisers following The Times' report, as it seemed that the more than 14 years' worth of sexual harassment allegations against O'Reilly finally caught up with him.
"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," read a statement from 21st Century Fox.
O'Reilly denies the allegations, claiming they were made in an effort to destroy his reputation. And on Tuesday night, O'Reilly's lawyer claimed he is being "subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America."
The Times' report, published online on April 1, claimed that O'Reilly allegedly paid five women a total of about $13 million to settle various claims of "sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior." The earliest settlement was reportedly reached back to 2002, while the newest settlements came much more recently in 2016, The Times reported.
That's about 14 years of settlements in which Fox News and 21st Century Fox failed to remove O'Reilly from its lineup.
According to The Times' report, the five settlements that O'Reilly reached pertained to agreements with five female Fox News or 21st Century Fox employees: a junior producer at Fox News, a producer on The O'Reilly Factor, a host on Fox Business Network, an anchor at Fox News, and an on-air personality at Fox News.
In addition to detailing the settlements, The Times' report alleged that O'Reilly's employer — Fox News — knew about the allegations since 2002, around the time the first settlement was reportedly reached. Rather than kicking O'Reilly to the curb, the media company instead offered payouts to O'Reilly's alleged female victims. Bustle has reached out to Fox News for comment.
As has been widely reported, O'Reilly anchored the number-one show on Fox News. His commentary was particularly popular throughout the most recent election cycle. Yet, by sticking with O'Reilly, Fox News has essentially told the public that ratings matter more than the integrity of the person who is earning them. For journalists — as for many professions — integrity is part of a professional's credibility, and I'd argue that O'Reilly has undoubtedly lost that credibility in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations. By siding with O'Reilly, I'd also argue that Fox News has lost that credibility.
For context, three U.S. presidents have held office — George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump — in the 14 years that O'Reilly remained on the air, despite the allegations made against him. The U.S. population grew by more than 31 million people, and the federal minimum wage increased from $5.15 to $7.25. According to Statista, the average price of regular unleaded gasoline was just $1.35 per gallon in 2002, whereas it's now well above $2. In 2002, the world was five years away from the first iPhone, and Friends was still on its first run.
Sure, the federal minimum wage may not be progressing as quickly as some Americans need it to, but at least it changed over the past 14 years. If the reports of his firing are true, until this week, the same couldn't be said for the way O'Reilly's alleged inappropriate behavior was handled.