Fox News and conservative raconteur Bill O’Reilly are losing scores of major brand advertisers, after the New York Times broke that Fox has paid $13 million dollars to keep at least five women silent about O’Reilly sexually harassing them.
Harassment accusations directed at O’Reilly
The allegations came out as O’Reilly’s new book, Old School, hit store shelves and the Times’ best sellers list. Despite the intense scrutiny O’Reilly is under, his book sales do not seem to be slowing.
Nevertheless, the popular peddler of staunchly conservative spin announced on Tuesday that he is going to “grab some vacation.” And lest his viewers suspect that this vacation has anything to do with his advertiser’s mass abandonment, he qualified the announcement by claiming that he booked this trip a year ago and that it’s something he often does around Easter time.
O’Reilly, a frequent attacker of victim mentality in American culture, claims that his fame and fortune have made him the victim of opportunistic women. He did not directly deny the allegations, including one that he blocked a junior colleague’s career prospects after she declined to visit his hotel room one night. Higher ups at Fox News, including co-president Bill Shine and the Murdoch family, are divided on whether they want the 67-year-old host to return to the air.
His show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” has been one of cable’s highest ranking programs and a cornerstone of the Fox News network since the show launched in 1996. Now, after 20 seasons and more than five thousand opinionated episodes, it could be facing its end.
Sponsors pull out
High-end German auto manufacturer Mercedes-Benz, who has spent an estimated $1.9 million on ads on “The O’Reilly Factor” in the last year, said that “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.” Similarly, Korean auto brand Hyundai released a statement. “We had upcoming advertising spots on the show, but are reallocating them,” it said. “As a company, we seek to partner with companies and programming that share our values of inclusion and diversity.”
But ratings are higher than ever
Viewers seem less shy about keeping company with a potential misogyny. Regardless of the controversy, or more likely because of it, 3.76 million viewers tuned in on Tuesday to see what O’Reilly had to say. That’s up 20% from the previous week. But if the show cannot hold onto advertisers, who collectively paid an estimated $119 million for airtime in the first three quarters of 2016 alone, O’Reilly may find himself out of the job.
This is not the first time Fox News has had problems with creating a hostile environment for women. In fact, their reputation for such has escalated over the years, culminating in the dismissal of chairman Roger Ailes last year for sexual harassment.
President Donald Trump perhaps unsurprisingly went to bat for his fellow conservative, calling O’Reilly a “good person.” Adding without evidence or support “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”