Despite his humble, Levittown, Long Island, roots and regular-guy persona, Bill O’Reilly has always been larger than life. He got the biggest ratings in cable news, was frequently a No. 1 best-selling author and got away with allegedly inappropriate behavior that would have sent any worker bee packing.
According to The New York Times investigation that led to his downfall, Fox News paid $13 million to five women over 15 years to settle charges of sexual harassment. Among recent payouts to settle such suits, only his former boss and mentor, Roger Ailes, has bigger numbers: Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid $20 million to Gretchen Carlson, the former anchor whose lawsuit ultimately took down Ailes and contributed to the chain of events—and the changed attitude at the parent company—that led to O’Reilly’s ouster.
Ailes has said that he is innocent of the charges that have been leveled against him by multiple women. O’Reilly said his fame made him a target and that he, too, did nothing wrong.
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“It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
O’Reilly’s departure from Fox News is also striking for what it says about the shift in leadership at 21st Century Fox to a new generation of Murdochs: CEO James Murdoch reportedly took the lead, eventually convincing Rupert that the commentator had to go.
But as stunning as the news was on Wednesday that O’Reilly’s 21-year run had come to an end, what it means to the fortunes of the cable channel is most likely—not…
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