O'Reilly is on the ropes, and could be going down.
Citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the discussion, New York Magazine reported Wednesday that the Murdoch family has decided that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly will leave the network before he returns from vacation on April 24th. Now what remains is managing how that departure will unfold.
The top Fox News host's future had grown uncertain as multiple outlets reported Wednesday the network was preparing to sever its relationship with him.
The news follows reporting by the New York Times that disclosed Bill O'Reilly and Fox parent 21st Century Fox had settled multiple sexual harassment complaints against the network's star anchor over the years for a total of $13 million.
Protesters have called for his resignation, and over 60 advertisers left his show in the ensuing backlash.
The company will hold a regularly scheduled board meeting on Thursday. While it's conceivable the host's situation could be discussed, the meeting's agenda is not public.
"Bill O'Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America," said his attorney Marc Kasowitz in a statement released Tuesday night.
"This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O'Reilly for political and financial reasons. That evidence will be put forth shortly and it is irrefutable."
O'Reilly denies the merits of the claims, according to 21st Century Fox. In a statement, O'Reilly said the settlements were made to "put to rest any controversies to spare my children."
The company has said it "takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously" and that "Mr. O'Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News."
While advertisers fled, his viewership went up after the Times story broke, rising to 3.71 million that week from 3.31 million the week before, according to the Nielsen company.
The host has been on a previously scheduled vacation in Italy since April 11, and viewership has declined 23 percent during that time, the AP reported. O'Reilly's favorability rating among his viewers is down to 73 percent this week from 80 percent last week, according to a National Research Group poll.
Fox News has been at the center of a storm of controversy that hasn't died down since Fox News Chairman and Chief Executive Roger Ailes resigned last year after he was accused of sexual harassment by several women. Ailes denied all of the allegations.
Top executives at Fox News were hoping the latest fracas over "The Factor" host would die down, the Wall Street Journal reported, but the continuing backlash has them now strongly considering an exit for O'Reilly to send a strong message.
The internal battle is also an intergenerational one.
Company patriarch and executive chairman Rupert Murdoch has resisted making a change, New York Magazine reported, citing three internal unnamed sources. O'Reilly's show was not just the most profitable at the network, but across all of cable news.
His sons and successors, James and Lachlan, want a different direction and a modernized workplace. James reportedly has argued for O'Reilly to go, with Lachlan originally landing somewhere between his brother and his father.
But Lachlan has now "leaned more in his brother James's direction" in the past few days, New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman wrote.
Fox News had renewed O'Reilly's contract as the Times story was in the works, but the paper reported it was restructured to give Fox "more leverage over him regarding his behavior." That could now be a factor in the current negotiations.
When asked if Fox News would confirm O'Reilly's April 24 return date, a spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wednesday, August 16 2017 11:10 AM EDT2017-08-16 15:10:08 GMT
Confederate monuments in Baltimore were quietly removed and hauled away on trucks in darkness early Wednesday, days after a violent white nationalist rally in Virginia that was sparked by plans to take down a...More
Confederate monuments in Baltimore were quietly removed and hauled away on trucks in darkness early Wednesday, days after a violent white nationalist rally in Virginia that was sparked by plans to take down a similar statue there.More