There was a time when Bill O’Reilly could spin news of the sort piling up this week against him. A wink at Roger Ailes, Fox News ex-chairman, a nod toward the ratings of “The O’Reilly Factor,” and he’d be back in the no-scandal zone.
The young producer he screamed at in 2002. The producer who said he told her to buy a vibrator and called to describe sexual fantasies about her. The Fox Business Network host who, after Fox failed to renew her contract, reportedly went to the company with incriminating recordings. The Fox News anchor whose O’Reilly experience yielded a $1 million payout.
And the regular on O’Reilly’s show whose career mysteriously stalled after she allegedly rebuffed his sexual advances. And the other regular who says she stopped getting invited on to the show after she declined an invitation to O’Reilly’s hotel room; she didn’t sue, but she and her lawyer – who called Fox News “the Bill Cosby of corporate America” – have asked New York officials to investigate a pattern and practice of sexual harassment and retaliation at the company.
When even the drug companies ditch your cable news rant, something is wrong.
The claims echo those that led to Ailes’ ouster last summer – a tawdry affair that left Fox’s corporate parent insisting that it would clean house and change the culture. So much for talk.
But change has come nonetheless, in the exodus of advertisers from O’Reilly’s show, 48 and counting as of Wednesday: Coldwell Banker, Allstate, Jenny Craig, Orkin, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Lexus, HR Block, Stanley Steemer.
Not to mention Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Bayer, Advil/Pfizer and Eli Lilly. When even the drug companies ditch your cable news rant, something is wrong.
O’Reilly says the suits were shakedowns and settling them a cost of doing business “in the arena.” President Donald Trump said, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
Well, he wouldn’t. The market, though, lives in the moment, and this moment has had it with creeps, in or out of “the arena.” O’Reilly’s fans may age in place, but his days are numbered. Sexual harassment just doesn’t sell like it used to in corporate America.