Conservative megastar talk show host Bill O'Reilly has been dropped from the Fox News Channel lineup following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, 21st Century Fox said Wednesday.
“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,” Fox's parent company said in a brief statement.
His abrupt dismissal ends O'Reilly's 21-years at the helm of The O'Reilly Factor, which began as The O'Reilly Report when the fledgling network began in 1996. He proved a steady ratings winner for the network over two decades and top ad generator, but also a lightning rod for controversy.
The 67-year-old O'Reilly, who recently signed a new multi-year contract worth more than $20 million a year, has been on vacation but was scheduled to return to the air on Monday.
O'Reilly has steadfastly denied allegations of sexual impropriety as recently as this week when his attorney, Marc Kasowitz said, "there is obviously an orchestrated campaign by activists and lawyers to destroy Mr. O’Reilly and enrich themselves through publicity-driven donations.”
He released the following statement Wednesday:
"Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television. It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel."
O'Reilly will be replaced in the coveted 8 p.m. ET time slot by Tucker Carlson, NPR reported..
The blunt, loud-talking O'Reilly has weathered controversy in the past, including other allegations of sexual impropriety, but the latest round hit the Fox news empire in the pocketbook as more than more than 50 top-drawer companies have pulled their ads from the show.
The ad revolt followed a recent scathing article in The New York Times that report that O'Reilly or the company made payouts totaling about $13 million to five woman involving allegations of inappropriate behavior by him over several years.
In addition, two more women surfaced with new charges against O'Reilly.
Although O'Reilly's viewerships increased during the controversy, the ad revenue loss and the steady drumbeat of negative publicity proved too much for the Murdoch family- Rupert and sons Lachlan and James — who control the Fox empire.
In a protest Tuesday outside the Fox news headquarters in Manhattan, survivors of sexual assault and harassment, as well as members of the women's advocacy group UltraViolet, called for O'Reilly's dismissal. Planes flew overhead with banners attached that read, "FOX: #DROPOREILLY, THE SEXUAL PREDATOR."
Gabriel Sherman, a long-time O'Reilly-watcher at New York magazine, reported Wednesday before the announcement that Fox executives were in the final negotiations with O'Reilly, mainly over the timing of an announcement and whether he would be allowed to say good-bye to his audience.
The decision to break with O'Reilly follows an investigation ordered by Fox into allegations of sexual impropriety. The probe was conducted by the same law firm that looked into sexual harassment charges against then Fox chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who denied the allegations, but resigned last year in a $40 million separation agreement with Fox.
The most recent allegation was lodged by an African-American woman who was a clerical worker at Fox in 2008, according to her lawyer, Lisa Bloom. The woman, speaking anonymously through her lawyer, said she never had a direct conversation with the Fox commentator, but said he referred to her as “hot chocolate” at one point when they were together alone, made grunting noises and leered at her cleavage and legs.
The woman reported being “very stressed and disillusioned” about her job and believed she would be fired if she complained to anyone, according to Bloom, but did report her allegations to Fox's anonymous hotline.
His attorney Marc Kasowitz said Tuesday that it was "outrageous" that the latest allegation, from the unidentified African-American woman, was being treated as fact despite coming from an anonymous person almost a decade ago.