Advertisers a factor in ditching of sex-scandal host

Top News | 21 Apr 2017

Fox News has severed ties with Bill O'Reilly, sacking its biggest star and America's most-watched cable news anchor over a flood of sexual harassment allegations and crashing advertising sales.

It was a humiliating blow to one of the biggest US media names, a veteran broadcaster at Fox News for two decades who counted President Donald Trump among his personal supporters and whose ratings soared in defiance of his alleged abusive behavior toward women.

But the departure of advertisers, wary of being associated with The O'Reilly Factor, sealed his fate as the Murdoch family, who own parent company 21st Century Fox, battle to keep a lid on reports of harassment at the channel and eyes up a powerful merger in Britain.

"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.

Women rights activists declared his dismissal a victory and said they hoped it would encourage victims of sexual harassment to speak out.

"To see this seismic shift in corporate culture, for a company to put women's rights ahead of the bottom line, this is enormous," said Wendy Walsh, a former O'Reilly guest who made allegations against him.

The announcement came just hours after the combative and right-wing television personality was photographed shaking hands with Pope Francis in St Peters Square on holiday in Rome.

"It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims," hit back the 67-year- old. "But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today."

O'Reilly said he was proud of what he termed "one of the most successful news programs in history," thanked his viewers and wished "only the best" for Fox News, the premier right-wing news outlet.

O'Reilly had been in the headlines constantly since a New York Times investigation revealed on April 1 that he and Fox had covered up allegations of sexual harassment against him for at least 15 years, paying five women a total of US$13 million (HK$101.4 million) in exchange for their silence.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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