The Emperor of cable news, Bill O’Reilly, has been pontificating and needling the left for decades, from inside his swanky skyscraper studio at News Corps Building, in midtown Manhattan. Always clad in boardroom chic, his abrasive style, acerbic wit, and streaks of mean retorts are legendary. Mr. O’Reilly’s interviews can be daunting–as most guests who brave the Emperor, tend to be spit-roasted and summarily dismissed. Since its debut in 1996, O’Reilly’s The Factor is Fox News’ number one program, and top of the heap in all of the cable news land for fifteen consecutive years. Yes, O’Reilly is a news man. Yet in a quirky turn of events, O’Reilly became the top story this week as reports surfaced of settlements paid in sexual harassment allegations. Oh, no, Mr. Bill!
The New York Times has dived deep into the underbelly of the Fox News beast and uncovered quite a tangle of women who have proclaimed O’Reilly sexually harassed and bullied them repeatedly during their tenure at Fox. So far, the tally of payola for O’Reilly’s inappropriate behavior registers at a scant $13 mil:
The women who made allegations against Mr. O’Reilly either worked for him or appeared on his show. They have complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews.
My sincerest apologies as you cannot unread that last line.
The parent company of Fox News, 21st Century Fox, in a written statement to the New York Times, claim that they have spoken with O’Reilly about the allegations, however, there was little indication that Billy-boy, like his bud Dennis Miller has nicknamed him, was in any kind of trouble with mom and dad. In fact, one might deduce that 21st Century Fox, led by the Murdoch boys, Lachlan and James, might just believe that O’Reilly may have been the victim: (yes, I really am citing Deadline: Hollywood. No hate mail, please)
“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” the statement said. “Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility.
21st Century Fox is going to protect their number one asset, and their loyalty to O’Reilly is either admirable or foolish. It didn’t take long for the ax to whack former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes from the skyscraper. If you recall, Ailes was publicly flogged, forced to resign politely, and exiled from the empire under a tidal wave of sexual harassment accusations in July of 2016. His friend, Bill O’Reilly, publicly backed Ailes and stated that “In this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target” of the unsavory greed of those wanting to score a quick payday.
Although Ailes was chairman of Fox News, a major player on the roster, he wasn’t the golden goose. O’Reilly, on the other hand, is a rainmaker for 21st Century Fox. As such, The Factor made $446 million dollars in advertising revenue for Fox, from 2014 through 2016, according to Kantor Media, a data research and analysis company on all things media.
With O’Reilly drawing down numbers that eclipse all other network programs and the consistent gains in his viewership, he has earned every red cent of his $18 million-dollar salary.
The New York Times was thorough in their investigation of Mr. O’Reilly, and some may speculate, a bit heavy handed. (What? The Times heavy handed regarding those on the right?) It is no secret that each O’Reilly book that climbs to the top of the preeminent national best sellers list, (could it be the New York Times Bestsellers list?), those in the Time’s executive offices begin gnashing their teeth.
This week, Emperor Bill was the news. The stories swirling around the mainstream media atmosphere will be kept aloft for a news cycle or two, then falling into archival tombs until another juicy lead on O’Reilly retrieves them from their eternal resting place. And there will be more to come on O’Reilly, he is a controversial figure in political and media circles, and not afraid to share his views. No, Bill isn’t fading into retirement anytime soon as the ink is barely dry on his new contract with 21st Century Fox. ‘Tis a made-for-TV tale that thus far, has no ending. Stay tuned!