‘It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims’
Bill O’Reilly’s highly successful 21-year run on Fox News is over.
“After a thorough and careful review of allegations against him, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Mr. O’Reilly will not return to the Fox News Channel,” a statement from 21st Century Fox said.
The news followed a report of a former Fox News employee coming forward with accusations of inappropriate behavior by O’Reilly.
O’Reilly issued a statement as he returned by plane from Italy on Wednesday: “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 achieve and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”
He added: “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.”
With O’Reilly gone, Fox host Tucker Carlson will move to O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. slot starting Monday, April 24.
Fox News will fill Carlson’s former 9 p.m. spot with “The Five,” to be co-anchored by Kimberly Guilfoyle, Dana Perino, Bob Beckel, Greg Gutfeld, Jesse Watters and Juan Williams. Sean Hannity will remain in his current 10 p.m. slot. Martha MacCallum will stay at 7 p.m. in a program that will have a new title “The Story” beginning April 28.
Earlier, New York magazine said the Murdoch family was split on whether the prime-time host would come back to Fox from a vacation that has just days left.
It was one of several media sources reporting the Murdoch family was split on the matter, which was costing the most profitable TV news operation considerable advertising revenue.
New York magazine sources said the Murdochs had indeed decided to pull the plug on O’Reilly’s reign as the king of cable news.
“According to sources briefed on the discussions, network executives are preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure before he returns from an Italian vacation on April 24,” the magazine said Wednesday.
“Now the big questions are how the exit will look and who will replace him,” the report said.
“Wednesday morning, according to sources, executives are holding emergency meetings to discuss how they can sever the relationship with the country’s highest-rated cable-news host without causing collateral damage to the network.”
While founder Rupert Murdoch reportedly wanted O’Reilly to stay, sons James and Lachlan were said to have argued for his departure.
With street protests outside Fox News headquarters and a parade of women making accusations ranging from sexual harassment to inappropriate and unprofessional remarks, the ad-revenue decline has been in free-fall.
“It’s worse than Glenn Beck,” one unnamed source was quoted as saying.
Beck lost his show on the Fox News Channel in 2011 when advertisers turned against him.
On Wednesday, Beck suggested to his radio audience that Murdoch’s sons don’t like Fox News and will eventually kill off the channel.
“It’s not going to go away right away,” Beck said, “but you’re seeing a significant weakening. Who’s the big bad wolf that will stand in the door?
“Roger is gone, and Rupert had to deal with the family — that the family and the wives and the children would kill it, and you’re seeing the end of the Fox News Channel.”
The magazine mentioned another possible consideration: The Murdochs are trying to engineer a $14 billion takeover of European pay-TV provider Sky, and the British media regulator Ofcom is set to determine whether News Corp. is “fit and proper” to own the giant media property. Losing O’Reilly, some insiders believe, might help win approval.
In addition, the company is said to have paid around $13 million to settle claims of sexual harassment against O’Reilly.
Less than a year ago, Fox News Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Roger Ailes was let go after a number of women charged him with sexual harassment and other similar charges.
The latest allegation against O’Reilly came Tuesday from the attorney of a Fox News clerical worker – a black woman – who claimed the host called her “hot chocolate.”
According to the woman’s attorney, O’Reilly “would never talk to her, not even hello, except to grunt at her like a wild boar.”
“He would leer at her. He would always do this when no one else was around and she was scared.”
Attorney Lisa Bloom said in a tweet the “new O’Reilly accuser who I represent is not asking for money, just accountability.”
Matt Drudge, among other observers, saw the end coming.
“O’Reilly has had tremendous run,” he tweeted out minutes after the latest “hot chocolate” shoe dropped. “Very few in the business get to decide when and how things end. Media is most brutal of all industries.”
New York magazine said on Wednesday that sources report the “discussions” over the exit are moving along.
“Right now, a key issue on the table is whether he would be allowed to say good-bye to his audience, perhaps the most loyal in all of cable (O’Reilly’s ratings have ticked up during the sexual-harassment allegations).”
The report said Eric Bolling, Dana Perino and Tucker Carlson are under consideration as replacements.