If you’ve ever watched him, you know that nobody deserved it more. Nobody deserved to be publicly humiliated more than that smug, smirking, snarling TV host, Bill O’Reilly.
Ten months ago, nobody would have believed there could be a Fox News without Roger Ailes. One month ago, nobody believed there could be a Fox News without Bill O’Reilly.
Yet today both are gone, and the world’s a better place. They are both vestiges of an age long gone: where men ruled the world, where men could treat women like dirt, even sexually harass women, and get away with it. It’s immoral, sometimes even criminal – but tolerated no more.
There are those who congratulate Fox News and the Murdoch family for their courage in doing the right thing and standing up for high moral standards. Nonsense. Fox News didn’t dump Ailes and O’Reilly because they wanted to. They dumped them both because they had to.
Fox, in fact, was fine with sexual harassment in the workplace, as long as nobody knew anything about it. Roger Ailes would still be on the job, were it not for Gretchen Carlson. Management at Fox knew that Ailes had a problem with his treatment of women, but did nothing about it until Gretchen Carlson and other women had the courage to come forward with their sexual harassment lawsuits.
And Bill O’Reilly would still be hosting “The Factor,” were it not for an April 4 investigative report in the New York Times, revealing that 21st Century Fox had paid a total of $13 million to settle lawsuits by five women who’d accused him of sexual harassment or verbal abuse – two of the lawsuits were filed after they’d fired Ailes. Was that news to Fox? Of course not.
In late March, before the NYT exposé, knowing full well that O’Reilly was a serial sexual abuser, Fox had signed him for a new four-year contract, reported by CNN at $25 million a year. They continued to stand by him even after the Times report – until advertisers started to jump off the O’Reilly show like rats off a sinking ship. Only after some 80 advertisers issued public statements confirming they’d removed ads from O’Reilly did Fox act – not to save its reputation, but to save its bottom line.
Of course, Fox News was not the only friendly force to stand by the shady Mr. O’Reilly. So did his longtime pal, the president of the United States. “I think he’s a person I know well – he is a good person,” Donald Trump told the Times after its bombshell article on O’Reilly. Trump continued: “I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
In the world of sexual abusers, it takes one to know one. The man from the “Access Hollywood” tapes recognizes a soul brother in the Fox News host. Trump believes O’Reilly should not have settled, any more than he settled with the 11 women who came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment – from groping on planes to forceful advances in Trump Tower – in October 2016.
Like Trump, O’Reilly continues to deny the charges against him (even though they cost Fox $13 million). In a statement the day he was fired, he called them “unfounded claims.” But nobody should have been surprised by this latest O’Reilly news. His troubles with women go back to October 2004 when producer Andrea Mackris sued him for repeated instances of sexual harassment, including phone calls in which he explicitly discussed vibrators, threesomes, masturbation, the loss of his virginity and sexual fantasies.
Then, also, O’Reilly denied it all – until Mackris released recordings of his phone calls. In one call, he famously recounted, in gross detail, taking a shower with her and rubbing her all over with a “falafel.” After 16 days of legal proceedings, Mackris and “Falafel Bill” reached a settlement for which he reportedly paid her millions of dollars.
So now Ailes and O’Reilly are gone. That’s the good news. The bad news is that neither of them went to jail – and that both of them walk away richer than ever. Ailes was paid $40 million to leave Fox; according to CNN, O’Reilly got less than Ailes, but still tens of millions.
In the wake of their departure, there’s only one question to ask executives of Fox News and those advertisers who pulled their ads from the O’Reilly show. Not: “Why’d you do it?” But: “What took you so long?”