Amid claims of sexual harassment, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has been removed from the company's on-air lineup.
On Wednesday, 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, released a statement reading, "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." The news comes after O'Reilly had been on hiatus for Easter and rumors suggested Fox was considering his removal.
The move follows reporting by the New York Times, which disclosed that the political commentator had settled multiple sexual harassment complaints against him with the backing of 21st Century Fox for amounts totaling $13 million. Now, the future of the undeniably influential host appears uncertain.
Executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch had initially resisted the idea of removing one of Fox News Channel's biggest on-air assets, according to reports, however, the news Wednesday indicates his opinion may have changed.
O'Reilly's long-running show, The O'Reilly Factor, had become the most profitable show on cable news. NBC News reported that an internal memo sent to employees Wednesday read, "By ratings standards, Bill O'Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news. In fact, his success by any measure is indisputable."
Following the NYT report, however, numerous advertisers had decided to pull content from O'Reilly's show and rumors hinting at an internal debate over keeping the host on-air began to appear.
O'Reilly himself denied the merits of claims against him, saying in a statement that the settlements were intended to "put to rest any controversies to spare my children." He further claimed that he was a large target for such complaints given his position in the cable news market.
"Bill O'Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyst America," said Marc Kasowitz, an attorney for O'Reilly. Lawyers have argued that the allegations against the host were unfounded and/or part of a "smear campaign...being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O'Reilly for political and financial reasons."
Fox News had renewed O'Reilly's contract as the NYT story came to light, but the paper reported that new contract details allowed Fox "more leverage over him." Now, those details may affect O'Reilly's exit negotiations.
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