If you believe Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, he’s just going on a preplanned vacation. But if you look at the swirling disaster around him, this could be the end for The O’Reilly Factor.
O’Reilly on Tuesday announced a vacation until April 24. A spokesperson for O’Reilly told Variety that this was planned for months: “The arrangements, including airline and hotel reservations, for this vacation were made last October. The vacation involves a group of people, and the timing coincides with the period Mr. O’Reilly often takes off in and around his children’s spring break.”
But the timing isn’t good for O’Reilly. Over the past few weeks, he has faced mounting criticisms for sexual harassment allegations against him. Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt reported for the New York Times that O’Reilly or Fox News have paid roughly $13 million since 2004 to five women who worked for O’Reilly or appeared on his show and later complained about his behavior. Two of the settlements reportedly came after former Fox News Chair Roger Ailes was dismissed from Fox News in another sexual harassment scandal.
O’Reilly said the complaints have no merit. It’s possible he settled to avoid the costs and headlines that can come with a public trial of a high-profile figure.
But major companies haven’t taken any chances. They are pulling ads from The O’Reilly Factor in droves, with big names like Advil, GlaxoSmithKline, and Mercedes-Benz joining in the boycott. According to Variety, the number of national ads on O’Reilly’s show has dropped from an average of 33 in the month prior to the Times report to just seven on Friday.
All of this has led to speculation that O’Reilly’s vacation really could signal his last show. Gabriel Sherman reported for New York magazine:
[A]ccording to four network sources, there’s talk inside Fox News that tonight’s show could be his last. Lawyers for the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer by 21st Century Fox to investigate Roger Ailes, are currently doing a “deep dive” investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior. They’re focused now on sexual harassment claims by O’Reilly guest Wendy Walsh after she reported her claims via the company’s anonymous hotline.
Fox News is likely hoping that the vacation will give the public and advertisers time to cool off and maybe reconsider the backlash. But if that doesn’t work, this really could be it for O’Reilly.