For conservative cable news junkies, Bill O’Reilly was the closest thing to a true-blue institution to be found on the Fox News airwaves. For more than 20 years, the outspoken commentator presided over the top-rated show in cable news: The O’Reilly Factor. The show’s popularity carried O’Reilly to the pinnacle of punditry and allowed him to branch off into a similarly-successful publishing career. To call his premature exit from Fox News a surprise would be a dramatic understatement.
The trouble for O’Reilly began after a New York Times feature story revealed that his employer had paid five women approximately $13 million in settlements after they accused the Factor host of sexual harassment. Immediately, the show began bleeding sponsors as major companies rushed to distance themselves from the growing scandal.
In an earlier era, O’Reilly might have been able to survive the trouble, but Rupert Murdoch’s kids are taking control of the network and they have a different view, perhaps, of what Fox News should stand for. Already in the past year we have seen significant changes – prominent Fox News personalities like Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren have abandoned the network, and the company’s ideological emperor – Roger Ailes – was forced out under circumstances similar to O’Reilly’s.
In a statement, O’Reilly denied that there was any truth to the sexual harassment allegations and said he held no ill will to his now-former employer:
“Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television. It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”
Fox News has announced that Tucker Carlson will be taking over the 8:00 PM timeslot, with the popular daytime show, The Five, moving to the 9:00 PM hour. Sean Hannity will retain his usual spot at 10:00.