Is it Curtains for 'The O'Reilly Factor'

Days after 21st Century Fox announced a law firm was hired to review a sexual harassment accusation against Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, the TV host announced that he is going on a two-week vacation.

Tuesday night on “The O’Reilly Factor” O’Reilly said that he had scheduled his trip “last fall” and usually takes time off during the spring.

“Often around this time of year, I grab some vacation because it’s spring and Easter time,” he said.”We all need R&R.”

A Fox News spokesperson said that O’Reilly’s vacation coincided with his children’s spring break and that arrangements, including airline and hotel, had been made in October, and he is scheduled to return on-air on April 24.

The vacation is ideal timing for O’Reilly. An investigation is underway, conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, regarding a sexual assault allegation made by Wendy Walsh last week.

Walsh, a psychologist and radio host who made appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor,” said O’Reilly reneged on an offer to secure her a lucrative job on the network after she declined his invitation to join him in his hotel suite after a dinner in early 2013.

Walsh and her lawyer, Lisa Bloom,uploaded a video on YouTube of the two calling the company’s anonymous hotline.

The week prior it was revealed Fox, its parent company 21st Century Fox and O’Reilly paid approximately $13 million in five sexual harassment settlements. Since then, more than 50 companies have stopped advertising during “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change, told DiversityInc that the online civil rights group with more than 1 million members has been specifically targeting corporations who advertise on “The O’Reilly Factor” to boycott the show.

Robison also said he doesn’t believe O’Reilly’s vacation was pre-planned.

“For [O’Reilly] to go on vacation in the middle of all of this is exactly the type of PR thing that media outlets try to do to stifle the energy of a campaign like ours,” he said.

Robinson said the organization that he leads has been lobbying against O’Reilly for some time.

“Bill O’Reilly has said a lot of things over years and has done a lot of things that have been sexist or racist,” he said.

Color Of Change led a campaign that eventually caused Glenn Beck’s show on Fox News to be cancelled in 2011. The advocacy group called on companies to cease advertising during the show after Beck’s “repeated use [of] its platform to stoke racial fear and hate with misinformation.”

O’Reilly generated nearly half a billion dollars in advertising revenues alone between 2014 and 2016, according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media.

But things may be changing. Ad time on “The O’Reilly Factor” has fallen by more than 50 percent, bottoming out with just seven ads during Friday’s show, said Kantar Media.

Before the harassment allegations were reported in the media, the show averaged 33 national spots.

Rupert Murdoch, 86, who controls 21st Century Fox, and his sons, James, 44, and Lachlan, 45, who also hold a leadership positions at the company, are awaiting the results of the investigation before making a decision about whether O’Reilly will stay or go, according to The New York Times.

But a report in New York magazine said James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s CEO, wants O’Reilly gone from the network permanently, while his father and brother are more inclined to keep him.

Though advertisers are dropping, viewers are still watching “The O’Reilly Factor.” The show’s ratings have remained strong with an average of 3.7 million viewers last week, up from the prior week and leading all other cable news programs, according to Nielsen (No. 41 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list).

O’Reilly, who makes an $18 million annual salary, is a top earner for the company that makes over $2 billion a year.

So, the Murdochs must weigh whether O’Reilly will go down the road of Fox News founding Chairman Roger Ailes, who resigned last year following an investigation of sexual harassment allegations by the same law firm, or remain with the company.

Publicdisapprovalof Fox News is beginning to rise. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James led approximately 50 protesters Wednesday in a demonstration in front of the News Corp. building, home of Fox News Channel, in New York City.

James tweeted a photo from the protest on Wednesday and said, “Racism and sexism are no joke. We’re here to demand that Fox News take “The O’Reilly Factor” off the air for his gross mistreatment of women.”

Not only has Fox News been sued for allowing sexual harassment, last month two African American employees, Tichaona Brown, a payroll manager, and Tabrese Wright, a payroll coordinator, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit.

Robinson said that Color Of Change would participate in an ongoing push for corporations to not just divest from placing ads during O’Reilly’s show, but to also boycott the larger culture that is seen on air.

“From our perspective, we will be pushing corporations to make a bigger and bolder decision beyond just ‘The O’Reilly Factor,'” he said.

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