To put it mildly, it’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad April for longtime Fox News host and spinmaster Bill O’Reilly. In the wake of reports that Fox News Channel coughed up $13 million over the years to settle claims that O’Reilly sexually harassed a number of female guests, advertisers have been bailing on “The O’Reilly Factor” left and right. At last count, almost 80 companies have cut ties with O’Reilly’s show–many of them doing so loudly.
As a measure of how far O’Reilly has fallen in just a short time, Thursday’s edition of “The O’Reilly Factor” only ran 45 minutes, and featured just seven ads. Friday’s show featured more ads, but none from any national advertisers. So it looks like O’Reilly picked a very good time to go on vacation. However, there’s already talk that the No Spin Zone is about to be closed–permanently. And not even Donald Trump’s support may be able to save him.
O’Reilly signed off on Tuesday night by announcing that he won’t be back for two weeks. Watch here.
Before you wonder if this is a suspension disguised as a vacation, O’Reilly maintains that he’s had this in the works for a long time, and always takes a vacation around Easter. However, Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine suspects that Tuesday may be the last time O’Reilly appears on-air at the fair and balanced network. Just hours after O’Reilly signed off on Tuesday, Sherman reported that there’s a lot of talk at Fox News that “tonight’s (Tuesday’s) show could be his last.”
Sherman called into MSNBC’s “The Last Word” to discuss this potential bombshell. Watch here.
Sherman, who first broke the news that Fox News founder Roger Ailes was on the way out for harassing female employees for years, revealed that O’Reilly’s fate is in the hands of Rupert Murdoch and his two sons, James and Lachlan. According to Sherman’s sources at Fox News, James Murdoch, who is CEO of Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, wants O’Reilly gone.
Sherman told Lawrence O’Donnell that James sees this latest scandal as “a stain on the company,” especially in the wake of the Ailes affair. However, his older brother, Lachlan, who is co-chairman of 21st Century Fox along with his father, is inclined to keep O’Reilly on. For now, Rupert is siding with Lachlan.
Sherman told O’Donnell that while O’Reilly is on vacation, “all of these discussions are going to come to a head, and a decision is going to be made.” Even though O’Reilly’s ratings have held steady and even increased in the week since this scandal broke in full, Sherman says that with so many advertisers have fled that they can’t make any money off those ratings. Earlier, Sherman reported that there may be another factor in the Murdochs’ calculus. There’s a chance the O’Reilly scandal could derail 21st Century Fox’s drive for full control of the UK’s largest satellite and pay TV company, Sky plc.
This is exactly how Ailes’ ouster played out last summer. Initially, James wanted Ailes fired on the spot, but Rupert and Lachlan wanted to defer any action until after the Republican National Convention. But that was before Megyn Kelly revealed that Ailes had harassed her. Within days, the Murdochs gave Ailes an ultimatum–resign by August 1 or be fired, and the network’s record ratings be damned. By July 21, Ailes had resigned.
If veteran attorney and legal commentator Lisa Bloom is to be believed, we may be seeing a similar tipping point very soon. Bloom represents Wendy Walsh, whose claims that O’Reilly blackballed her for spurning him caused this scandal to flare into the open. For now, Fox News’ internal investigation, conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss, is focusing on Walsh’s claims. However, Bloom dropped by CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday and suggested that more accusers may be about to come forward.
— Reliable Sources (@ReliableSources) April 9, 2017
Bloom ramped up the pressure on the Murdochs when she appeared on “The Last Word.” She revealed that several more women have reached out to her–and hinted that it was “highly likely” more suits were on the way. She has also asked the New York State Division of Human Rights to launch its own investigation into sexual harassment at Fox News. Her message to the Murdochs–“This is not going away.” Sherman seemed to agree, saying that the threat of more lawsuits would strengthen James Murdoch’s contention that it was time to “rip the Band-Aid off” and take this seriously.
For now, O’Reilly and Fox News maintain that O’Reilly will be back on the air on April 24. But from what Sherman and Bloom are saying, they’re deluding themselves–at least publicly. Advertisers heading for the exits, the prospect of multiple lawsuits, and a state investigation? There is literally no defensible reason for O’Reilly to stay on.
(featured image courtesy O’Reilly’s Facebook)