Fox dropped O’Reilly, but activists want more from the network

Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly on the set of his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” in New York on March 17, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly on the set of his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” in New York on March 17, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Fox News’s decision to drop Bill O’Reilly from the network’s popular primetime slate was seen only as a first step by groups that have been pushing for his ouster.

The company announced Wednesday afternoon that “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.”

A New York Times report this month revealed that five women had been paid more than $13 million by either the network or O’Reilly to settle sexual harassment accusations against him. After dozens of advertisers pulled out of sponsoring his show, O’Reilly went on vacation, and was expected to return next week prior to Wednesday’s statement. O’Reilly had been at Fox for two decades, and his show — “The O’Reilly Factor” — was the highest-rated show on cable news.

O’Reilly’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, called the allegations a “brutal campaign of character assassination.”

Media Matters, the liberal group that reports on conservative media outlets, including Fox News, said in a Wednesday statement that the company had no choice but to expel O’Reilly:

“Fox News was forced to act. They had years to address serial sexual harassment at Fox News. They didn’t; they actually enabled it. So, individuals and groups took action to educate advertisers. Advertisers fled because they immediately recognized what Fox News has ignored for over a decade: that serial sexual harassment is not only wrong, but bad for business.”

UltraViolet, which focuses on expanding women’s rights and fighting sexism, was pleased with the move, but also focused on Fox News as a whole:

“Bill O’Reilly is a serial sexual predator, a bigot, and a misogynist,” said the group in a statement released Monday. “He will not be missed. But Fox News’ problem with sexual harassment and assault is way bigger than just Bill O’Reilly. For years, Fox News executives, like Bill Shine, have provided cover for systematic sexual harassment and abuse of Fox New’s employees. From Roger Ailes to Bill O’Reilly, Fox News has consistently failed to provide a workplace safe from sexual harassment and abuse — and that’s a big problem.”

“The fact that Fox News is only taking action against O’Reilly after an investigation revealed that they could be defrauding shareholders by not revealing payments made to cover up the abuse, isn’t lost on anyone,” continued the statement. “The first accusations of sexual assault lobbed against Bill O’Reilly at Fox News were made more than 13 years ago. Unless Fox News makes the results of the investigation public, and fires all those found guilty of, or complicit in, covering up sexual harassment, advertisers and the general public will continue to have cause for concern. With reports that dozens of additional women at the network have not yet come forward with allegations of sexual harassment, the next scandal for the network may just be months away.”

Corporate watchdog group SumOfUs, which was part of the campaign to get advertisers to pull their commercials from “The Factor,” also urged further action at the network.

“Bill O’Reilly should have been fired from Fox News years ago,” said a spokesperson for the group in a statement to Yahoo News Wednesday afternoon. “The fact that Fox News executives knowingly covered the tracks of a serial sexual predator for this long speaks volumes to the larger issues of sexual harassment and rape culture at the network.”

“But because millions spoke up against sexual harassment, Fox News was forced to fire O’Reilly. Major advertisers listened to their consumers and employees, recognizing that O’Reilly is a serial sexual predator who should not be on TV, and that Fox News had no intention of holding O’Reilly accountable for his crimes. While O’Reilly may be gone now, it would be wise for advertisers to acknowledge that Fox News has a lot more to do if they want to root out systematic patterns of sexual harassment and assault. Until then, their brands are at risk.”

Fox News has been at the center of a number of sexual harassment claims over the past year. Last July, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes resigned amid accusations from former anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly that he had sexually harassed them.

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