Fox News is reportedly preparing to cut ties with star host Bill O’Reilly amid growing sexual harassment allegations against the anchor. An attorney for O’Reilly claims he “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination.”
O’Reilly last appeared on air on April 11 when he announced he was taking a pre-planned vacation. The question now is whether that vacation could become permanent, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.
New York Magazine reported the Murdoch family, which controls Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, is split on what to do about the host: James and Lachlan Murdoch are in favor of dismissing him, but their father, Rupert, has resisted because, as the magazine put it: “it would make it appear he was forced into a decision by the New York Times.”
The magazine, citing sources, reported Wednesday that the network was preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure within the next several days.
“This is a real test of whether or not Rupert Murdoch is really going to let them run the company,” said Cynthia Littleton, Variety’s managing editor for television. “The success of Fox News was in large part built on the shoulders of Bill O’Reilly. It would be a difficult situation for any family when you add in billions of dollars at stake and influence and power.”
On April 1, the New York Times revealed that O’Reilly and Fox paid up to $13 million to settle accusations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by O’Reilly against five women.
Since then, more than 50 major advertisers have pulled commercials from O’Reilly’s top-rated program. Protesters have gathered outside Fox News headquarters calling for the host’s firing.
The pressure ramped up Tuesday when another woman, who remains anonymous, reported new harassment allegations against O’Reilly to 21st Century Fox, according to her attorney, Lisa Bloom.
“Bill O’Reilly worked near her, he would come by her desk when there was no one around and make sexually inappropriate comments to her,” Bloom told CNN.
An attorney for O’Reilly calls the claim “outrageous” and says his 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.”
“He really has a big voice in the culture and certainly on that network and it’s certainly not going to be easy for them to fill those shoes,” Littleton said.
21st Century Fox has declined to comment on the reports of O’Reilly’s departure. Following the resignation of former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes last year amid similar allegations, Fox promised a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment.