Bill O’Reilly’s two-decade reign as a misogynistic rabble-rouser on Fox News has finally come to an end.
After the New York Times exposed that Fox News had stood by O’Reilly after series of sexual assault allegations, sponsors began to drop like flies, leaving the station in a difficult predicament.
Drop its protégée or keep him, and gamble with losing all sponsorship.
“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 parent company of Fox News, 21st Century Fox, said in a statement.
O’Reilly has reached settlements totaling $13 million with five women who have accused him of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.
Fox wasn’t fazed by the multiple accusations against O’Reilly. The possibility of having a sexual predator on staff was not a cause for concern.
After all, it’s not like this was the company’s first experience with the issue.
Last year, the chairman of the company, Roger E. Ailes, was ousted after a sexual harassment scandal led to public outrage. This opened the floodgates, leading the company to settle two harassment complaints against O’Reilly, and then extending his contract.
But Fox, like every large corporation, defines its moral code by what earns and loses money. O’Reilly was considered an asset. He raked in funds for Fox with his loyal following, so it was willing to throw $13 million at the victims to get the problem to go away.
Then, when the public became aware of what was happening behind closed doors, Fox had to re-evaluate O’Reilly’s worth.
Over 50 advertisers pulled sponsorship from his show. The public began calling for his contract to be terminated. Women working for the company were furious and called into question the promises made by Fox after the Ailes scandal to maintain an atmosphere of “trust and respect.”
O’Reilly is of course denying the accusations. But the mere quantity of complaints, as well as the fact that Fox had settled so profusely with those involved, indicates there is more than likely truth to the accusations.
We cannot condone sexual harassment. Hiding scandals behind closed doors will only blow up in a company’s face.
Fox should have learned this lesson after Ailes. But clearly it takes multiple punishments for the message to sink in.
Yes, O’Reilly had a dedicated following and replacing him might impact ratings for that segment. However, Fox should not underestimate the loyalty of its viewers. Does the company really think O’Reilly leaving will cause its subscribers to begin to turn to NBC or CNN instead?
No. The conservative following that turns to Fox for its news will continue to tune in regardless of who is sitting behind that desk. The ratings may briefly dip, but they will not disappear.
Permitting a vile employee to remain under contract, however, will ensure the workplace environment is toxic. Inevitably, someone will talk and the doors will be blown open to the public.
If Fox values its viewers, it needs to start putting them first. That means placing value in the morals its viewers hold dear. When an employee violates those morals, that employee has to go.
Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications.