As we discussed yesterday, Bill O’Reilly has been fired from Fox News. As I was writing up the pre-firing story yesterday morning, I had a weird premonition that Wednesday was going to be the day and I should get the “everyone says O’Reilly is going to be fired” story published quickly, because everything would be happening soon. Sure enough, just hours later, Fox News announced that O’Reilly had been sh-tcanned. So what has the general reaction been? For the most part, it just feels like… too little, too late. Personally, I can’t believe it took this long. But I also can’t believe that people were so “shocked” by the reporting about all of the payouts to O’Reilly’s harassment victims. Hilariously, this was Breitbart’s headline: “Bill O’Reilly’s Secret: He Was a Centrist, Not a Conservative.” Hahahahaha. Well, sure, I guess someone is buying that.
So, what’s next for O’Reilly and what’s next for Fox News? For now, Tucker Carlson is getting O’Reilly’s time slot, which… good luck with that, because Carlson is awful. Now Vanity Fair reports that many inside Fox News are worried that there are more scandals and firings to come:
Inside the divided Fox News bunker, many seasoned executives are wondering if they are living in an alternate universe. As shocking as the Roger Ailes fiasco may have been, and as surprising as Megyn Kelly’s departure went down, Bill O’Reilly’s sudden ouster has absolutely shaken the newsroom, according to multiple insiders. (Ailes has fervently denied all accusations.) Executives spent a contentious Wednesday in various closed-door meetings as they finalized the fate of the network’s biggest star, who was forced out amid news of sexual-harassment allegations and settlements of those allegations.
The reactions to the news of O’Reilly’s departure were decidedly mixed in the newsroom. Some staffers cried. Others were elated. The move also laid bare divisions between the Murdoch sons, Lachlan and James, and their father, who were on opposite sides of the argument about whether to retain the anchor, according to a person close to the family. Eventually, though, Rupert Murdoch agreed with his sons about the need to remove O’Reilly, this person added. And the day was filled with an ominous tension as the elder Murdoch, the network’s C.E.O., moved from one closed-door meeting to another to inform on-air talent of their new jobs….Within Fox News, it remains unclear how much O’Reilly may receive in severance, but some sources speculated that the figure could be in the ballpark of the $40 million that Ailes received.
The move to dethrone O’Reilly, once unimaginable, crystallized over the past week, as advertisers continued to flee his show, more women came forward, and, perhaps most important, Fox News management came to realize that there was no way to stem the possibility that more accusers might surface, anonymously or not, and that O’Reilly would be a liability for the company as long as he stayed on at the network.
Today, the network has 13 of the top 15 cable shows, but some wonder how much longer that will last. Within the newsroom, some are simply astonished by what has transpired at Fox News. In less than a year, Fox News has lost its two biggest stars, and saw its mastermind evicted. Now the pressure falls upon Tucker Carlson, who joined the prime time lineup a few months ago, and will now fill O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. slot. The Five, which helped popularize the “leg cam,” will move to 9 p.m.
The most unsettling feeling among some at Fox News, however, is that Wednesday’s events are only the beginning. “There’s more to come,” one Fox News insider told me, suggesting that there are more women with stories of harassment who have not come forward publicly. This estimation was affirmed by two people who heard such stories directly. Others are equally concerned about the attention that is being drawn to 21st Century Fox’s handling of the allegations by women inside the company.
Rupert Murdoch spent part of Wednesday trying to allay fears within his organization. In an internal memo, he told his colleagues, “Most importantly, we want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect.” But not everyone in the Fox News orbit is prepared to move forward just yet. Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky in their suits against Ailes, appears willing to fight on. “A couple of men close to retirement got pushed into retirement early with a whole lot of money,” she said in a statement. “Until Fox News releases every woman from confidentiality and arbitration agreements and until they get rid of the executives who enabled the harassment, the workplace will not be safe for women.”
Over the past year, as I read the accusations from Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson and other female Fox News employees (past and present), what I kept coming back to was “what century do these men think they’re living in?” The harassment and misogyny throughout Fox News just came across as so dated, like every man employed there honestly believed they were living the Mad Men life. I’ve worked in a handful of sh-tty offices, but it seems like walking into Fox News HQ must be like stepping into a completely different era. Maybe that’s why all of those Fox News journalists are so nostalgic for “the old days,” the days when you could threaten to fire a leggy blonde if she didn’t submit to your sexual whims.
Photos courtesy of Getty.