Bill O’Reilly has been forced out of his position as a prime-time host on Fox News, the company said Wednesday, after the disclosure of multiple settlements involving sexual harassment allegations against him. His ouster brings an abrupt and embarrassing end to his two-decade reign as one of the most popular and influential commentators in television.
“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, Fox News’ parent company, said in a statement.
O’Reilly’s departure comes 2 1/2 weeks after an investigation by The New York Times revealed how Fox News and 21st Century Fox had repeatedly stood by O’Reilly even as sexual harassment allegations piled up against him. The Times found that the company and O’Reilly reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.
Since then, more than 50 advertisers had abandoned his show, and women’s rights groups called for his ouster. Inside the company, women expressed outrage and questioned whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal forced the ouster of Fox News’ chairman, Roger Ailes.
That put pressure on 21st Century Fox and the Murdoch family that controlled it. After the dismissal of Ailes, the company struck two settlements involving sexual harassment complaints against O’Reilly and also extended his contract, even as it was aware of the complaints about his behavior.
Last week, the Murdochs enlisted the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior after one woman, who had detailed her allegations against O’Reilly to The Times, called the company’s hotline to report her complaints. Another complaint was reported Tuesday, according to the lawyer who represents the woman making the allegations.
O’Reilly has denied the allegations against him.
O’Reilly, 67, has been an anchor at Fox News since he started at the network in 1996. He was the top-rated host in cable news, serving up defiant commentary every weekday at 8 p.m., with a message that celebrated patriotism and expressed scorn for political correctness. His departure is a significant blow to Fox News’ prime-time lineup, which in January lost another star, Megyn Kelly, from a lineup that dominated the prime-time cable news ratings.
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