NEW YORK – Media giant 21st Century Fox on Wednesday announced the ouster of Fox News television host Bill O’Reilly amid accusations of sexual harassment presented against 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,” said the network’s parent company in a statement.
O’Reilly’s firing comes after media outlets reported in early April that the outspoken conservative TV host and 21st Century Fox had paid up to $13 million since 2002 to five accusers so that they would not pursue their harassment lawsuits.
The scandal, which was initially reported by The New York Times, had motivated about 50 companies – including big names such as Mercedes-Benz, Hundai and BMW – to withdraw their advertising from “The O’Reilly Factor,” the host’s evening program.
Activist groups such as the National Organization for Women have been bringing pressure to bear for weeks on the firm to fire O’Reilly in a case that NOW said became emblematic of the “culture of sexual harassment at Fox News” and requires an “immediate independent investigation.”
Both the self-proclaimed “no-spin” host and the network always claimed that the accusations were completely unfounded, but they agreed to pay a six-figure sum to one complainant in exchange for her silence and promise not to take the matter to court, according to The Times.
O’Reilly’s attorney claimed on Tuesday that his client – a long-time conservative media icon – had been the target of a “smear campaign” financed by leftwing activist organizations.
Fox News is trying to ride out a scandal that erupted last summer, when the network’s former reporter and talk show host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against then-news director Roger Ailes, who ended up resigning last July.
Up to four million viewers watched “The O’Reilly Factor” each evening, making it the most-watched cable TV program in 2016 and generating $446 million in ad revenues for Fox between 2014 and last year, according to a study carried out by Kantar Media.