- Fox News cut ties with former primetime host Bill O’Reilly in April 2017, in the wake of a sexual-harassment scandal.
- Host Dana Perino happened to be filling in for O’Reilly that day, so she had to deliver the news to the world.
- Perino said she didn’t stop to think about herself and her emotions – the only thing going through her mind on air was making sure O’Reilly’s staff felt appreciated.
On April 19, 2017, Fox News host Dana Perino announced to the world that long-time primetime host Bill O’Reilly wouldn’t return to the network.
Earlier in April, The New York Times had reported that Fox News and O’Reilly had paid millions to settle multiple women’s claims of sexual harassment; after that, multiple other women accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment.
Subsequently, there was an exodus of advertisers from his show’s time slot, Business Insider’s Pamela Engel reported, and it was decided that the host wouldn’t return to the network.
The responsibility to break the news fell on Perino by coincidence: She says she happened to be the guest host who was filling in for O’Reilly that day.
On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Perino told US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell that “there was a moment where I was, like, ‘How did I end up being this person?'”
Perino was most worried about making her colleagues feel valued and recognized.
Perino remembers the decision about O’Reilly being made at about 4 p.m., just four hours before the show was set to air.
As she scrambled to prepare, Perino focused on one thing: “His staff was in the control room and, to me, that was my most important audience that night. For them to know how appreciated they were, how valuable they were to Fox News, and that I recognize that this was a really big, significant, and emotional moment for them, and I wanted them to know that.”
Perino saw the way some media outlets covered the announcement – the Daily Mail called her “emotionless” and the Daily Beast said she showed “zero emotion.” Perino told Shontell, “It was like an insult. I’m, like, ‘No, no. Emotionless was the goal. That’s what I was trying to do.'”
That day, Perino told Shontell, she channeled the persona she once cultivated as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. Here’s Perino:
“Almost always, a press secretary will be asked, what was it like when you had to talk about a policy that you disagreed with? And how uncomfortable was that for you? And I always would say, ‘Not a problem for me.’
“It wasn’t my opinion, it wasn’t my news to share. It was me trying to explain to the country how President Bush had made a decision. And I think that was the mode that I switched into, which is: It wasn’t about me.
“I was given this responsibility, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability in a way that I have done in front of international audiences for years. I never thought I would be that person.”