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Fox News ousts O'Reily over claims

by New York Times News Service on April 20, 2017 10:34 AM

Bill O’Reilly’s reign as the top-rated host in cable news came to an abrupt and embarrassing end on Wednesday, as Fox News forced him out just weeks after the disclosure of a series of sexual harassment allegations against him and an internal investigation that turned up even more.

O’Reilly and his employers came under intense pressure after an article by The New York Times revealed how Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, had repeatedly stood by him even as sexual harassment allegations against him mounted. The Times found that the company and O’Reilly had reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him.

The agreements totaled about $13 million.

Since then, more than 50 advertisers had abandoned his show, and women’s rights groups had called for him to be fired. Inside the company, women expressed outrage and questioned whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal led to the ouster of Roger E. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.

That left O’Reilly’s fate in the hands of the Murdoch family, which controls 21st Century Fox. In the end, according to two people familiar with the decision, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, made their decision after reviewing the results of an internal investigation that found multiple women had reported inappropriate behavior by O’Reilly.

“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement.

The news of O’Reilly’s ouster came as he was on a vacation to Italy, where on Wednesday morning he met Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. In a statement later in the day, O’Reilly praised Fox News but said it was “tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims.”

O’Reilly will be succeeded in the 8 p.m. Eastern slot by Tucker Carlson, who only moved into the channel’s prime-time lineup in January.

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