It took a while—years too long, in fact—but Fox News finally appears ready to fire longtime host Bill O’Reilly over the blowback from sexual harassment allegations accumulated over the course of his career at the network. The news of the popular host’s coming departure comes from the Wall Street Journal, which cites anonymous sources that “Fox News is preparing to cut ties with its biggest star” and that “a final decision on Mr. O’Reilly’s fate could come as early as the next several days.”
The Journal’s reporting leaves a bit of wiggle room, as the network could be “preparing” for a number of potential outcomes when it comes to O’Reilly, but the fact the Journal, like Fox News, is a Rupert Murdoch owned company seems of particular significance. The paper certainly has unique access to the top brass at both Fox News and 21st Century Fox. Reports last week that Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, was considering its options and investigating the details of its cash cow host’s behavior led to reporting that the Murdoch family, which runs the media kingdom, was split on whether to severe ties with O’Reilly and his profitable show. O’Reilly’s previously unannounced “vacation” effective April 11th—effectively taking him off the air as the controversy played out—was the first concrete indication that the ground could be shifting underneath O’Reilly’s feet at the network.
Since the New York Times dove deep into the growing list of allegations of harassment and the $13 million in settlements dished out by Fox News to protect O’Reilly, the network has faced intense pressure from advertisers with more than fifty companies bailing on the O’Reilly Factor even if viewers stuck around and the show’s ratings held largely steady. O’Reilly would be the second big name departure from the network for sexual harassment; Fox News Chairman and chief executive Roger Ailes resigned last July after numerous accusations of harassment.