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Bill O'Reilly's future at Fox hangs in balance over sexual harassment claims

Executives are reportedly “preparing to cut ties” with the presenter.

Bill O'Reilly
Bill O'Reilly
Image: Andy Kropa/AP

BILL O’REILLY’S FUTURE at Fox News remains uncertain amid an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

The conservative presenter is currently on leave while Fox News Channel’s parent company looks into a woman’s accusation that her career was slowed when she spurned O’Reilly’s advances.

Dozens of advertisers have dropped The O’Reilly Factor following reports of harassment settlements paid to other women. O’Reilly has denied any wrongdoing.

The pressure is mounting on O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, which is looking into at least one complaint about his behaviour.

The Wall Street Journal — a newspaper owned by the same Murdoch family that owns Fox News Channel — reported late yesterday that Fox executives were “preparing to cut ties” with O’Reilly. A spokesman for 21st Century Fox declined to comment to AP.

Earlier, lawyer Lisa Bloom said she was representing a former clerical worker at Fox who complained that day to a hotline established at Fox about O’Reilly’s behaviour during her six months working there in 2008.

‘Hot chocolate’ 

The woman, who is African American, said O’Reilly referred to her as “hot chocolate” at one point when they were together alone, made grunting noises and leered at her cleavage and legs, Bloom said. The woman said she never had a direct conversation with O’Reilly.

The woman, who is not contemplating any legal action, reported being “very stressed and disillusioned” about her job and believed she would be fired if she complained to anyone, Bloom said.

Marc Kasowitz, O’Reilly’s lawyer, 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, especially where there is obviously an orchestrated campaign by activists and lawyers to destroy Mr O’Reilly and enrich themselves through publicity driven donations”.

It wasn’t immediately clear who he was referring to.

Bloom, who represents another woman who has complained about O’Reilly’s behavior, said she is not taking payment for the O’Reilly cases.

Later, Kasowitz said O’Reilly has been subject to a “brutal campaign of character assassination” that is unprecedented in more than 70 years. He said he had evidence that a smear campaign is being orchestrated by “far-left organisations,” but he didn’t immediately release any.

Meanwhile, women’s rights group UltraViolet yesterday said it planned to hire an airplane with a banner, as well as drop off petitions at Fox News Channel’s New York headquarters, calling for O’Reilly to lose his job at the network.

Ratings dropping

During O’Reilly’s time off, his show’s viewership declined by 23% in the hands of substitutes Dana Perino, Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld.

Nielsen company figures show that, so far, viewers aren’t as interested in The O’Reilly Factor without O’Reilly.

Perino has done the best, with her 3.15 million viewers on Monday, down 16% from O’Reilly’s performance a week earlier. Bolling also showed a 16% drop from O’Reilly a week earlier, and he reached 3.11 million viewers.

The 2.32 million who watched Gutfeld on Friday was down 39% from the previous Friday and, alarmingly, was even lower than Tucker Carlson’s audience at 9pm. Carlson usually benefits from O’Reilly’s strong lead-in.

Still, the substitutes beat their cable news competition. And Fox pointed out that the network finished last week ahead of all cable networks in viewership, as it has for much of this year.

O’Reilly’s viewership spiked in the days following a New York Times report on the harassment allegations on 2 April. In the week that followed, viewership increased to an average of 3.71 million, up 12% from the week before the report and 28% over the same week in 2016.

O’Reilly averaged nearly four million viewers a night for the first three months of 2017, his best performance ever. Viewership tends to drop with the arrival of daylight savings time.

Read: Major companies pull ads from Bill O’Reilly’s show over sexual harassment claims

Opinion: ‘Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly will be replaced by another big mouth, cheering Trump on’

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Associated Press

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