Bill O’Reilly, America’s most successful cable news personality, currently on vacation in Italy, may be about to leave Fox.
Fox is preparing to cut ties with him, the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal has reported.
The website Deadline said the WSJ reported that “a final decision” on O’Reilly’s future, or not, at News Corp-owned Fox News Channel had not yet been made but “could come as early as this week”.
The future of O’Reilly, whose Fox News contract was renewed early this month, is expected to be discussed at Thursday’s board meeting of FNC parent company 21st Century Fox.
The WSJ report comes in the wake of multiple sexual harassment allegations against him and a New York Times report that he and FNC paid nearly $13m to settle cases with five women going back 15 years.
Protesters rallied outside Fox News’ Manhattan studios this week demanding that he go.
Fox News Channel has stopped saying O’Reilly will be returning to the air this coming Monday. On April 11, FNC said its star was going on vacation.
The O’Reilly Factor has been the most-watched show in the cable news landscape for 14 years. It recently had its highest-rated quarter ever.
While O’Reilly has been off the air, his show’s ratings have slipped noticeably and as many as 70 advertisers are believed to have moved their ads.
Drudge Report founder Matt Drudge went on Twitter to fete O’Reilly’s “tremendous run.”
He said, “O’Reilly has had tremendous run. Very few in the business get to decide when and how things end. Media is most brutal of all industries..."
In New York magazine Gabe Sherman wrote that both of Rupert Murdoch’s sons now are leaning toward recommending O’Reilly be removed from the cable news network - “while their father leans in the opposite direction,” said Sherman.
He speculated that O’Reilly might become “the flotsam and jetsam” of the Murdochs’ pending $14bn takeover of European pay-TV provider Sky.
British media regulators will decide next month whether the Murdochs are “fit and proper” to own such a large media property and “removing O’Reilly could appease critics and help close the Sky deal,” Sherman wrote.
O’Reilly’s attorney has said his client has been “subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.” He promised to present irrefutable evidence the campaign “being orchestrated by far-left organizations” was bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons.
When O’Reilly left on vacation he did so without publicly addressing the New York Times report that Fox News and its primetime star had, between them, allegedly paid five women nearly $13m in settlements going back 15 years.
The parent company, 21st Century Fox has confirmed it was investigating the sexual harassment claims.
Rupert Murdoch sent a memo to FNC staff thanking them for the network’s ratings success as the O’Reilly probe got underway.
Pressure on the company increased this week, according to the New York Times, when another woman reported sexual harassment allegations against O’Reilly to 21st Century Fox.