Fox News is preparing to cut ties with primetime host and ratings star Bill O’Reilly as the commentator has become engulfed in a sexual-harassment scandal, according to reports in New York magazine and The Wall Street Journal.
Network executives are getting set to announce O’Reilly’s exit from the network whose primetime lineup he spearheaded for over two decades before he returns from an impromptu vacation on April 24, according to New York magazine.
O’Reilly’s vacation came on the heels of a mass advertiser exodus from his show’s 8 p.m. ET time slot. Earlier this month, The New York Times broke an explosive investigation that found O’Reilly and Fox News had paid out $13 million to five women to settle sexual-harassment claims they had brought against him.
Multiple other women have accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment since. On Tuesday, an unnamed African-American woman claimed, through attorney Lisa Bloom, that O’Reilly leered at her and called her “hot chocolate” in 2008. Bloom is also representing Wendy Walsh, a former Fox News contributor who has alleged that O’Reilly reneged on an offer of employment after she rebuffed his advances and declined an invitation to his hotel suite in 2013.
Walsh and the latest unnamed accuser both reported their experiences to the Fox News hotline. Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, announced it was opening an investigation into O’Reilly’s conduct after Walsh phoned in her claim.
In light of these allegations and O’Reilly’s sponsor losses, network executives are “moving quickly” to remove him from the network, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported. The biggest issue on the table, according to Sherman, is whether O’Reilly will be permitted to say goodbye to his audience, and sources say executives are leaning against allowing it. The other issue, sources say, is O’Reilly’s contract, which is worth more than $20 million per year.
Debate also reportedly raged among Rupert Murdoch – who owns 21st Century Fox – and his sons about whether to keep O’Reilly, who helms the highest-rated cable news show in the country. While Murdoch wanted O’Reilly to stay on, his son, James, wanted O’Reilly out. James’s brother, Lachlan, sided with him.
Fox’s parent company will hold a board meeting on Thursday during which it’s likely O’Reilly’s fate will be determined.