Fox News has fired embattled evening news show host Bill O’Reilly after allegations of sexual harassment, according to a statement released by the network on Wednesday, ending a 21-year-career with them.
“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,” said the statement on the website of Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox.
O’Reilly had been the network’s biggest attraction, hosting the “O’Reilly Factor” each evening, which centered on conservative and right-wing commentary on politics, society and other topics. O’Reilly was a staunch critic of President Obama and his policies and his own critics have said that he emboldened voters to support the election of President Trump.
He was recently blasted for a gaffe in which he made a derogatory comment about Rep. Maxine Waters hair, comparing it to a “James Brown wig.” He later apologized for the remark. But even more serious allegations surfaced about sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that $13 million had been paid out to five women by Fox over the claims. The women who made the allegations were either employees of his or had been on his show. They alleged that he engaged in verbal abuse, lewd language and even threatening their career advancement if they pushed away his sexual advances. O’Reilly denied the claims but said the settlements were made to end the controversy.
His lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz said in a statement that O’Reilly “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination,” and that “far-left organizations” were engaging in a “smear campaign” against him.
O’Reilly released a statement late Wednesday expressing his disappointment in the manner in which he was fired.
“It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims,” he said. “But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”
Fox was targeted by protesters calling for his resignation after the allegations had come to light and deep-pocketed advertisers including BMW, Mercedes Benz, GlaxoSmithKline, Ancestry.com, among dozens of others began to abandon the network as pressure built.
O’Reilly’s critics applauded Fox’s decision when it was announced. Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, called the firing a “victory.”
“Bill O’Reilly has spent years spewing racism and harassing women,” Robinson said in a statement. “Today, his reign of hate and abuse comes to an end.”
O’Reilly had been on a pre-scheduled vacation since April 11 and viewership on “The O’Reilly Factor” reportedly declined 21 percent while he’s been gone. Fox has not yet made any statements on who would be permanently replacing him in the evening timeslot. Fox News personalities Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld, and Eric Bolling, have been filling in for him in the interim.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.