21st Century Fox is getting closer to cutting ties with Bill O’Reilly, the biggest star on its high-rated, profit-generating Fox News Channel, according to published reports.
Following an April 1 article in The New York Times disclosing that Fox News and O’Reilly have paid $13 million to settle a number of sexual harassment claims, advertisers have pulled their commercials from The O’Reilly Factor, adding financial hardship to pressure from activists and women’s rights groups.
O’Reilly went on vacation last week. He had planned to return his show on April 24.
Related > Report: Fox Settled O’Reilly Sexual Harassment Claim Last Summer
Last year, Fox News’s powerful chairman Roger Ailes, who built the channel into a TV juggernaut and political powerhouse, was forced out amid sexual harassment charges.
21st Century Fox’s new CEO James Murdoch appears to be trying to run a more by the books organization than his swashbuckling father Rupert Murdoch, who remains executive chairman of 21st Century Fox and was put in charge of Fox News after Ailes’ departure.
Related > Fox News Channel, Ailes, Shine Named in New Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
The Wall Street Journal said Fox News is preparing to cut ties with O’Reilly, according to people close to the situation. The Journal, like Fox, is controlled by the Murdochs. A final decision on O’Reilly could come as early as the next several days, the paper said.
In New York magazine, Gabriel Sherman reported that the Murdochs are leaning toward announcing that O’Reilly will not return to the air.
One factor pushing the Murdochs is a pending ruling on 21st Century Fox’s $14 billion takeover of Sky TV in Europe, according to the magazine. The British Office of Communications is getting ready to rule on whether Fox is a “fit and proper” owner for Sky. Parting with O’Reilly would make Fox appear more squeaky clean to regulators by removing at least one potential objection.
According to The New York Times a new complaint from a former Fox News employee was registered on the 21st Century Fox sexual harassment hotline. The employee said that in 2008 that O’Reilly would leer at her, grunt like a “wild boar” and called her “hot chocolate.”
The Times said O’Reilly’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz of Kasowitz Benson Torres, said it was “outrageous that an allegation from an anonymous person about something that purportedly happened almost a decade ago is being treated as fact.”
Kasowitz also said O’Reilly “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”
“This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons. That evidence will be put forth shortly, and it is irrefutable,” Kasowitz said.
Ailes has also denied all of the charges made against him.
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.