LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Fox News Channel’s parent company fired Bill O’Reilly following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, network executives announced Wednesday.
21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday saying “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.”
The conservative commentator’s last day on “The O’Reilly Factor” was April 11. He went on vacation and was scheduled to return from vacation in Italy next Monday.
He was photographed in Rome shaking Pope Francis’ hand on Wednesday.
O’Reilly’s departure from Fox News marks a stunning end to a near perfect marriage. For two decades, O’Reilly has ruled the “no spin zone” with cable news’ most popular show, and his ratings had never been higher.
The downfall of Fox’s most popular — and most lucrative — personality began on April 2, when The New York Times reported that five women had been paid a total of $13 million to keep quiet about disturbing encounters with O’Reilly.
Wendy Walsh, a former commentator on O’Reilly’s show, came forward this month saying he cut her loose after she refused his advances following a dinner business meeting at the Hotel Bel-Air.
As the accusations piled up, more than 50 major advertisers pulled out of his show even though viewership soared.
“The O’Reilly Factor” generated $178 million in advertising revenue in 2015, according to Kantar Media.
Before the advertising boycott, there was the prospect of even more: his audience was larger in the first three months of 2017 than it has ever been.
With a profit center gone, 21st Century Fox stock fell almost 1 percent Wednesday in heavy trading.
O’Reilly’s pugnacious personality wasn’t just an onscreen affectation, with one of the settlements going to a woman who complained about being shouted at in the newsroom. O’Reilly was alleged to have slowed the careers of women who spurned his advances.
One former Fox personality, Juliet Huddy, said she pulled away and fell to the ground when he tried to kiss her, and he didn’t help her up, the Times reported.
The 67-year-old, denied a chance to say goodbye to his Fox viewers, did so via a statement he released while on a flight back from Italy.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Lisa Bloom, who represents three women accusing O’Reilly of sexual harassment, called the announcement by Fox News a victory for victims who were brave enough to come forward and hopes more will now do the same.
“This is what happens when women speak our truth – we can slay dragons,” Bloom said. “I am very proud to have stood with my brave clients who stood up for themselves and all the silenced women.”
O’Reilly’s exit came nine months after his former boss, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, was ousted following also allegations of sexual harassment.
Following the Times story, 21st Century Fox said it had asked the same law firm that investigated Ailes to look into O’Reilly’s behavior.
21st Century Fox leaders Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, said in a memo to Fox staff that their decision to ax O’Reilly came following an “extensive review” into the charges.
Whether O’Reilly’s absence from Fox will change the direction of the conservative movement, Jon Fleischman, conservative blogger from Orange County said mostly not.
“This is not an earth-shaking thing. Personalities on news programs change all the time. He just happens to have been there a long time, has had a long period of time to build up a large group of followers. He’s not departing on his own terms. So all of that combines to create a little bit of drama,” Fleischman told CBS2’s Tom Wait via Skype.
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