Bill O'Reilly, kingpin of the O'Reilly Factor, is leaving Fox News after allegations of sexual harassment, with a package believed to be $25 million , the New York Times reports today.
As news of the exit package spread through the Fox newsroom , some employees questioned how committed executives were to rooting out sexual harassment, said the Times - which broke the original story of the harassment allegations earlier this month.
O’Reilly's payout of as much as $25 million, is equivalent to one year of his salary, said the NYT citing two people familiar with the matter .
That development was met with “outrage” and “disgust” among some employees, the paper said, and among critics outside the company, who said it sent a message that a powerful newsroom figure could profit even after multiple sexual harassment allegations had been made against him.
The Times quoted Lisa Bloom, a lawyer who represents two women who reported sexual harassment allegations against O’Reilly. "It's terrible, " she said. “Most people would consider $25 million a huge lottery win.”
O’Reilly’s package brings the total amount of payouts related to sexual harassment allegations at Fox News to more than $85 million — paid by the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox.
Most of that — as much as $65 million in exit packages — is being paid to the men who were ousted because of the allegations, said the Times,
O’Reilly, 67, was forced out on Wednesday after the disclosure of several sexual harassment allegations against him and after an internal investigation found more women with complaints about his behavior.
Nine months ago the network’s founding chairman, Roger Ailes, was ousted amid a sexual harassment scandal.
The Times pointed out,"Executives promised at that time that there was no room for behavior that disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.“
Ailes received a $40 million package when he left.
On Wednesday, Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch, the top executives at 21st Century Fox, said in a memo announcing O’Reilly’s departure that they had a “consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect.”
Since Ailes left, said the NYT, the network has made an effort to clean up its culture, dismissing some executives close to him, installing a new head of human resources and conducting a series of training and sensitivity sessions.
Some Fox News employees said Thursday that while the dismissal of O’Reilly was a step in the right direction, they remained skeptical that real change would occur. As examples of how the network had yet to change, the employees pointed to the fact that Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy, the network’s co-presidents and former lieutenants to Ailes, remained in their positions. Employees in the newsroom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss delicate internal matters.
The Times said O’Reilly’s ouster was "a stunning reversal for 21st Century Fox, which had long stood by him even as allegations and settlements started to amass."
O’Reilly, who started at Fox News in 1996, was considered the network’s top asset. His nightly program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” generated high ratings and pulled in hundreds of millions in advertising revenue.
But pressure mounted on the company to take action after a New York Times investigation early this month found that O’Reilly and the company had reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. The agreements totaled about $13 million, the majority paid by him.
Earlier this year, the network extended O’Reilly’s contract by an additional four years. At the time, the company was aware of allegations of sexual harassment against him and had even reached two settlements involving such complaints. His previous contract had been set to expire this year.
The exact financial terms of O’Reilly’s exit package are not known, said the NYT,but it is expected that the company will disclose them in future regulatory filings.