Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly announced Tuesday that he was going on vacation. According to a report by New York Magazine, some 21st Century Fox executives don’t want him back.
Four anonymous sources spoke to the magazine and each claimed O’Reilly’s days at Fox are numbered.
While Fox News Co-President Bill Shine has reportedly campaigned to keep O’Reilly, the Murdoch family who runs the network is divided.
“It’s up to the family,” one source told the magazine.
The report says 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wants O’Reilly gone, but his father Rupert and his older brother Lachlan — the company’s executive co-chairmen — disagree.
A similar dynamic played out last year when news of former Chairman Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment surfaced. Then, just like now, James called for his immediate release while Rupert did what he could to keep Ailes on board.
Lawyers from the firm hired last year to investigate Ailes have been brought back and are conducting a thorough investigation into O’Reilly’s history.
Michael Wolff, writing in the Hollywood Reporter, said the controversy surrounding the future of O’Reilly is indicative of a divide within the Murdoch family for how to run the highly profitable news channel.
“Last July, after Gretchen Carlson sued … 21st Century Fox and Roger Ailes, the then-head of Fox News Channel, for sexual harassment, Rupert Murdoch told his sons, both Ailes enemies, that paying off Carlson without a fight would mean more lawsuits,” Wolff wrote. “Easy-money settlements always bring more claims. James and Lachlan Murdoch, however, were eager to get rid of their nemesis, and the most direct way to do that was to accept Carlson’s claims after a quickie investigation and then use a big payoff — $20 million — to end the dispute and calm the storm.”
Now, in the wake of the April 1 New York Times report detailing how O’Reilly, with the support of 21st Century Fox, paid $13 million over 15 years to five different women who accused him of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, Wolf says Rupert Murdoch is blaming his sons for opening the door to additional claims.
“It’s a particular sort of irony that Fox, which, to the delight of its audience, built itself on rejecting liberal assumptions, might now be brought down by such a signature liberal assumption: Where there are charges of sexual harassment, there is sexual harassment,” Wolff wrote.
O’Reilly announced Tuesday night that he would be taking a vacation until April 24, saying the time off had been planned since October.
But the announcement also coincides with the decision by 60 companies to pull their advertising spots on The O’Reilly Factor, which has been the most-watched show on cable news for more than a decade.
Total paid advertising time on his program fell from an average of more than 14 minutes per show during March to fewer than five minutes on Friday’s program.