There are those who appear untouchable in their respective positions. No matter what allegations or bad behavior seem to dog them over the years, they have a way of lasting through those bad times. And for many years, it appeared this would be the story of Bill O’Reilly, the man who made the 9pm primetime slot his own at the Fox News Channel. After all, this is a man who held the record of having the most watched program during that timeslot for more than a decade. There is a reason any previous allegations against O’Reilly were swept under the rug – he made his network a lot of money.
However, the events of the past few weeks have showed that even those who are at the top of their profession can face the consequences for their bad behavior. After a string of sexual harassment allegations were brought to the forefront, a full-scale investigation from 21st Century Fox resulted in O’Reilly leaving the company. It is not yet clear what type of compensation package he will receive, and whether he can immediately start a position at another company, but his days at Fox News are certainly over. The O’Reilly Factor is no more.
Fans of his show will be disappointed, for he is a man they trusted to tell them the truth for more than a decade. His detractors will point to the fact that his news show may never have been the most trustworthy or “balanced” program on television, and they will certainly point to his history of indecent behavior around women and subordinates. O’Reilly believed that his power and position were enough to see him through the bad times, but he overestimated his ability to ride through a scandal. After Roger Ailes, he is the second man to depart Fox under a cloud in the past few months.
There are several reasons why this was the moment that Fox decided to part with O’Reilly. The Ailes scandal certainly played a part. Having one major player in the organization accused of persistent sexual harassment is bad enough, but to have a second person being accused of similar behavior indicates a much deeper problem. Fox could say that Ailes was a one off – a man who did not behave in the way that Fox expects from its employees. But if O’Reilly was kept on despite these allegations, could they play up such a defense?
Another reason the death knell sounded for O’Reilly’s time at Fox was the advertisers who decided to back away from his program. Some of the biggest companies in the United States no longer wanted their ads running during his show, even if it was still drawing huge numbers. And when a television program is not generating advertising revenue, it is not profitable in the same way as it was before. And ultimately, Fox has some of their reputation to uphold, and removing O’Reilly shows they are an organization that finally put principle over financial reward. Whether it is a move that came too late remains to be seen.