Last week, Fox News removed Bill O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” from the network due to sexual harassment allegations that emerged in early April.
Notably this also took place after 50 advertisers pulled their support from O’Reilly’s show since April 1.
Although this is a positive step for Fox, as it creates a better workplace environment, the Editorial Board worries this didn’t take place solely because of the allegations but because of the loss of advertising revenue.
On April 1, the New York Times reported 21st Century Fox and O’Reilly had paid out roughly $13 million combined in five sexual harassment settlements.
After the April 1 article was published, 21st Century Fox enlisted a law firm to investigate O’Reilly’s workplace behavior. Additionally, since its publication, other women have come forward with complaints against O’Reilly.
Sometime last week, the company decided to fire him.
The Editorial Board finds it hard to believe Fox and the Murdochs — Rupert and Lachlan, the co-chairmen of 21st Century Fox — needed an investigation to ascertain whether O’Reilly had been harassing female employees and guests at Fox.
If the settlements are any indication, they’ve known about how he treats women for a long time now. The earliest settlement dates back to 2002, but the network didn’t know about that one, which O’Reilly settled privately, until the Times reported it. They were, however, aware of a settlement that took place in 2004.
If the Murdochs and the other stakeholders in the company truly cared about the poor treatment of women within their news outlet, they would have worked to change the workplace culture years ago — not after news of all five settlements surfaced.
After Fox News chairman Roger Ailes was removed from his position on similar allegations last July, Lachlan and James Murdoch, the co-chairmen of 21st Century Fox, made a press release in which they said, “We continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold these traditional, long-standing values of our company.”
Upholding these values should happen regardless of whether the misdemeanors of the network’s hotshots and executives are made public. And they definitely should be upheld based on standards of workplace decency — not based on how many advertisers remove their support after the dirty laundry is aired.
Granted, it’s good that Fox finally dealt with this. Wendy Walsh, one of the women who made a complaint against O’Reilly, made a comment after the news of O’Reilly’s departure: “Today, we have entered a new era in workplace politics.”
Yes, it’s good that O’Reilly was finally held accountable for his actions, but perhaps his reckoning should have come a little sooner.