Bill O’Reilly—host of Fox News’ primetime show The O’Reilly Factor, one of cable TV’s most highly rated news shows—was involved with five sexual harassment settlements, and is losing advertisers because of it.
On April 1, The New York Times reported that Bill O’Reilly was involved in five settlements with women who reported sexual harassment. Two of the cases were previously known, but three were newly brought to light by The New York Times article.
The Times reported that the women “have received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him,” wrote Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt for The Times. “The agreements totaled about $13 million.”
O’Reilly has denied any misconduct on his part – but the allegations seem to show a similar pattern.
“As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally,” wrote Steel and Schmidt. “He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.”
Since the story broke, about 50 companies have dropped their advertisements from his show.
— Yashar (@yashar) April 8, 2017
Complete list of advertisers on tonight's O'Reilly Factor pic.twitter.com/K1DLwWyUEo
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) April 11, 2017
Many of the companies cited conflicting values as the reason for dropping their advertisements, including Mercedes-Benz who, along with many other companies, gave a comment to CNN.
“Yes, we had advertising running on The O’Reilly Factor (we run on most major cable news shows) and it has been reassigned in the midst of this controversy,” said Mercedes-Benz. “The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.”
While advertisers are dropping off, viewers are still tuning in. According to The Washington Post, the show averaged 3.71 million viewers over five nights last week. Additionally, the show had 4 million viewers in the first quarter of 2017, his biggest ever in the show’s 20-year history.
“Controversy is a breeding ground for interest,” Marc Berman, editor-in-chief of The Programming Insider, told the Post. “So people who otherwise might not have seen his show recently are curious. People might want to see if he addresses the subject. If the ratings were not up, I would have been surprised.”
This is not Fox’s first time dealing with harassment: Roger Ailes, the former chairman and CEO of Fox News, was accused of sexual harassment by Gretchen Carlson and more than twenty others just last year. Six of these cases also reached settlements, and Ailes was subsequently ousted from the company.
First Ailes, now O’Reilly—why is this happening again? 21st Century Fox, parent company of Fox News, is denying accusations that they did not handle these situations appropriately. In a statement to The New York Times, they said it takes matters of harassment very seriously, but dismissed any fault of their own.
“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,” read the statement. “While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”