Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is heading off on vacation, and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch doesn’t want him to come back, a new report claims.
According to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, two “highly placed” sources within Fox says the leader of the news channel’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, would like O’Reilly taken off the air permanently following the recent string of sexual harassment allegations against him.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that O’Reilly and Fox have paid out some $13 million to a total of five women in exchange for them agreeing not to pursue litigation against the conservative commentator or publicly discuss their allegations against him.
O’Reilly announced Tuesday night that he is taking a vacation and stepping away until April 24 for a vacation that he said was planned last fall. The Fox host’s spring break comes as more than 60 advertisers are boycotting “The O’Reilly Factor,” which airs in the 8 p.m. hour.
Fox News accounts for about 20 percent 0f 21st Century Fox’s annual profit, Variety reported, and O’Reilly’s program is the cornerstone of the news outlet, bringing roughly 4 million viewers every evening. Because of the advertisement exodus that’s arisen, “The Factor” has had to air as much as 10 minutes of additional content to make up for the void.
Sherman reported that Tuesday night’s program could be O’Reilly’s final hour as lawyers with the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer to deal with sexual harassment allegations against ousted Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, conduct a “deep dive” investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior.
However, though James Murdoch is reportedly convinced O’Reilly needs to go, not everyone in leadership is on board. Fox News Co-President Bill Shine has been working to keep O’Reilly on the air, and according to Sherman, Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch, James’ father, and 21st Century Fox Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch, James’ older brother, “are more inclined to keep” O’Reilly.
A similar dynamic — James calling for immediate action, Rupert wanting to wait it out — developed last year when reports of sexual harassment allegations against Ailes began cropping up. Ultimately, James Murdoch got his way.
In the end, the embattled Fox News host’s fate rests squarely with the Murdochs. “It’s up to the family,” one insider told Sherman.
“The assumption is that he’ll exit in a non-embarrassing way,” another senior Fox News official said.