According to New York magazine, sources within Fox News say the network has decided to sever the relationship with longtime host Bill O’Reilly. The news comes amid a series of allegations of sexual harassment, which the attorney of the widely popular host suggests are part of a “smear campaign” conducted by “far-left” groups.
“The Murdochs have decided Bill O’Reilly’s 21-year run at Fox News will come to an end,” the magazine reported on Wednesday. “According to sources briefed on the discussions, network executives are preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure before he returns from an Italian vacation on April 24.”
According to sources, Fox News executives are holding “emergency meetings” on Wednesday to figure out how to best cut ties with O’Reilly ahead of a meeting with parent company execs reportedly scheduled for Thursday. The network wants a “seamless” transition, the magazine reports, with the highly popular host’s replacement ready to take over the time slot immediately. Tucker Carlson, who has thrived in the 9 p.m. slot is one name being suggested, along with Eric Bolling and Dana Perino. Sean Hannity appears to be uninterested in moving to a different time.
Two major sticking points appear to be whether or not O’Reilly will be allowed to say good-bye on air and, of course, money:
Sources briefed on the discussions say O’Reilly’s exit negotiations are moving quickly. Right now, a key issue on the table is whether he would be allowed to say good-bye to his audience, perhaps the most loyal in all of cable (O’Reilly’s ratings have ticked up during the sexual-harassment allegations). Fox executives are leaning against allowing him to have a sign-off, sources say. The other main issue on the table is money. O’Reilly recently signed a new multiyear contract worth more than $20 million per year. When Roger Ailes left Fox News last summer, the Murdochs paid out $40 million, the remainder of his contract.
New York Mag‘s Gabriel Sherman says that an internal battle over how to handle O’Reilly emerged between Rupert Murdoch and his son James, the former defending the host and the latter calling for his dismissal.
On Tuesday, O’Reilly’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, issued a statement saying his client was the target of a “smear campaign” carried out a “left-wing” groups and that they would soon be providing “irrefutable” evidence to that effect.
“Bill O’Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America,” said Kasowitz. “This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons. That evidence will be put forth shortly and it is irrefutable.”
As The Daily Wire reported Wednesday, Glenn Beck provided some evidence of the orchestrated campaign against O’Reilly spearheaded by leftist organization Media Matters. One of the targets of the campaign appears to be advertisers, over 50 of which have withdrawn ads from his time slot. Though it seems clear some on the left are attempting to drum up pressure to oust O’Reilly, whether or not any of the allegations are true remains to be seen.
The embattled host has been accused of sexual harassment by several female accusers. According to the New York Times, O’Reilly has settled with fie of those accusers, paying out a total of $13 million.
UPDATE: It’s official: O’Reilly is out at Fox News.