As it fires former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly following sexual harassment allegations, 21st Century Fox wants people to know that O’Reilly is actually great.
Here’s the memo from Fox, which company owners the Murdochs sent out to staff to announce their decision:
We’d like to address questions about Bill O’Reilly’s future at Fox News. After a thorough and careful review of allegations against him, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Mr. O’Reilly will not return to the Fox News Channel.
This decision follows an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel.
By ratings standards, Bill O’Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news. In fact, his success by any measure is indisputable. Fox News has demonstrated again and again the strength of its talent bench. We have full confidence that the network will continue to be a powerhouse in cable news.
Lastly, and most importantly, we want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect.
The clincher comes in the third paragraph. It’s the only time that Fox is specific about O’Reilly’s history at the company. It doesn’t mention the sexual harassment allegations or the reported $13 million that Fox and O’Reilly had to pay out to quiet the accusations. Instead, it reminds Fox’s staff that O’Reilly was super successful — and, in fact, “one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news.”
Then the memo closes with “a consistent commitment” to foster “a work environment built on the values of trust and respect.”
This, too, is questionable. The allegations against O’Reilly go back to 2004, 13 years ago. If Fox was really interested in creating an environment built on trust and respect, why is it only acting now?
The reality is that Fox is acting because its bottom line has been affected. Following a recent New York Times article about the allegations against O’Reilly, advertisers began to pull out of the show in droves. According to Variety, the number of national ads on O’Reilly’s show dropped from an average of 33 in the month prior to the Times report to just seven on Friday, April 7.
This is what led Fox to act so quickly. The complaints had been around for more than a decade. What changed this time is advertisers weren’t having it.