By Jillian Atelsek
Bill O’Reilly, the top-rated cable news host in the country, has been fired from Fox News following revelations that he and the company paid $13 million in settlements to women who had accused him of sexual harassment.
On April 1, The New York Times published a report revealing the amount of the settlements and details about the claims of the five women behind the charges. The report also brought attention to the parent company of Fox News, 21st Century Fox, which was aware of the allegations, but remained loyal to their most profitable host.
In the weeks following the release of the Times article, O’Reilly consistently denied the accusations. Despite many advertisers leaving The O’Reilly Factor, ratings for the program were actually increasing amid the storm of controversy — until Fox announced Wednesday it would sever its professional ties with O’Reilly.
The women who accused O’Reilly of harassment either worked with him or appeared on his show. All of their stories tell of unwanted comments, phone calls and sexual advances from O’Reilly, who, the women say, made them feel afraid their careers would be harmed if they rejected him.
The allegations against O’Reilly are shocking and newsworthy on their own, but are made even more so due to Fox’s recent scandal involving Roger Ailes.
Ailes, the founder and former CEO of Fox News, resigned in the summer of 2016 following a similar fall from grace involving accusations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior.
A large portion of the student body at this university may never have seen an episode of The O’Reilly Factor, which makes sense due to the fact that most of us don’t quite fit into the program’s target audience.
As a result, the significance of O’Reilly’s television persona, and now his exit from Fox, is likely lost on many students at this university, but it shouldn’t be.
Whether one loved O’Reilly’s programs, hated them or had never seen them, the bottom line is this: it’s hard to deny the impact they had on the culture and political discourse of our country. O’Reilly’s often controversial stances and assertive tactics held a titanic position in the minds of many Americans, forcefully shaping their opinions and worldview.
His exit, therefore, represents a transformation not only in the landscape of cable news, but also in American public opinion.
Perhaps more importantly, some see Fox’s decision to force O’Reilly out as progress for women’s workplace rights. One such person is Wendy Walsh, one of the women who made allegations against him.
“This is a seismic cultural shift, when a corporation puts a woman’s rights above the bottom line,” Walsh told The New York Times in a new report. “Today, we enter a new era in workplace politics.”
However, in light of Fox’s pattern of sexual harassment issues, others have doubts. It remains unclear whether the treatment of women at the network will improve in the future or if the corporation will continue doling out money to silence them.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of WikiCommons.
Jillian Atelsek is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.