Yesterday, Fox News announced the termination of Bill O’Reilly, host of its top-rated news show, The O’Reilly Factor, since 1996. O’Reilly’s ouster was precipitated by the slew of sexual harassment charges brought against him by various women who had worked for him, for the network, or appeared on his show over the years. His 8:00 pm time-slot will be filled by Tucker Carlson, who is currently the host of Tucker Carlson Tonight, currently shown at 9:00 pm on Fox.. (The Five, currently broadcast at 5:00 pm, will move to 9:00 pm, and a new show hosted by Eric Bolling will air at 5:00 pm.) Carlson may not be familiar to some of you. More on him below.
In my April 15 blog on this matter I had cautioned against a rush to judgment. Many were calling for his immediate ouster, including advertisers, various women’s groups and James and Lachlan Murdoch, the sons of principal owner, Rupert Murdoch, who manage Fox’s day-to-day activities. I had urged waiting until the completion of independent investigations that were being conducted by the Manhattan DA’s office and the law firm, Paul, Weiss, which had been hired by Fox. Apparently, the evidence uncovered by Paul Weiss’ internal investigation as well as various external factors, left Fox with no choice.
Below please find a brief timeline of events that led to this blockbuster decision:
- April 1 – The New York Times published a story detailing payments to five women over several years to settle allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct.
2. April 4 – Advertisers began cancelling their ads. Eventually, some 60 of them did so.
3. April 9 – Fox announced the hiring of renowned law firm, Paul, Weiss, to conduct an internal investigation of the allegations. This is the same firm that Fox had hired to investigate the Roger Ailes allegations, which had resulted in his termination.
4. April 11 – O’Reilly went on a vacation that he claims was scheduled last autumn.
5. April 18 – Another woman comes forward with allegations that were particularly damaging. She claims he would “leer” at her and refer to her as “hot chocolate,” adding a racial element to the sexual harassment allegations.
6. April 19 – A poll conducted by Morning Consult reported that 46% of Americans, including 23% of Factor viewers, favored Fox cancelling the Factor. Only 22% favored retaining the show, with the rest undecided.
7. April 19 – Fox announced the O’Reilly will not be returning, and NPR broke the story about Carlson replacing him.
Tucker Carlson was born on May 16, 1969 in San Francisco. He graduated from Trinity College. He has had a varied career as a reporter, commentator and journalist. Among the highlights: He has been a columnist for New York and Reader’s Digest. He broke into television in 2000 on CNN as co-host of The Spin Room. In 2005 he moved to MSNBC where he hosted various news shows until 2009 when he became a Fox News contributor. He has appeared on, co-hosted and hosted various shows on Fox, the latest being the aforementioned Tucker Carlson Tonight. I like his style, and I think he will be successful, although, perhaps, not as much as O’Reilly was.
In the end Fox had no choice. The combination of mounting evidence, public pressure from women’s groups, the media, and the loss of advertising revenue was too overwhelming. Ultimately, management’s primary responsibility is to protect the “brand.” Like any company faced with scandalous behavior of its employees, Fox needed to take prompt, decisive, corrective action to demonstrate it was committed to rectify the problem. It could not be seen as a company that tolerates workplace sexual or racial harassment. Thus, we see yet another instance in which no person, regardless of status, is bigger than the company.