Longtime host Bill O'Reilly has left the Fox News Channel in the wake of persistent accusations of workplace sexual harassment, departing a program that has been the top-rated prime-time cable show for the past 18 years.
In recent weeks the veteran newsman has been accused by several women of sexual misconduct either in an office setting or on the Fox News production set. The charge and its fallout have been on the public radar for weeks, and the final outcome arrived Wednesday afternoon in a terse statement.
In a statement released later Wednesday evening, Mr. O'Reilly called it “tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”
The situation has been brewing for weeks and picked up considerable speed when Mr. O'Reilly’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, earlier this week said his client was the victim of a “brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”
Mr. Kasowitz said his law firm will soon reveal evidence of “a smear campaign that is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O'Reilly for political and financial reasons.”
Longtime advertisers began dropping their support for the show weeks ago; some press reports said that Fox News and Mr. O'Reilly have paid out $13 million to settle several of the harassment claims, though others were still outstanding.
In the meantime, immediate changes are ahead for the network, which has been rated No. 1 across the entire cable realm for the last 15 weeks, besting such rivals as CNN and MSNBC, as well as HGTV and ESPN.
Beginning Monday, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” will take over to the popular 8 p.m. time slot now left vacant; Mr. Carlson will broadcast live from Fox News’ Washington, D.C., bureau. Dana Perino filled in on Wednesday’s show and will do the same Thursday night; Greg Gutfeld is slated to host Friday night.
“The Five” will move into the 9 p.m. time slot formerly held by Mr. Carlson’s show, starting Monday.
The host, now 67, abruptly left on a vacation to Italy last week. During the first four days of Mr. O'Reilly’s absence, the show’s viewership dropped by 23 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research. In the meantime, the shakeup generated dozens of dramatic news stories on his “ouster,” offering timelines, speculation and editorial commentary.
In his statement, Mr. O'Reilly said he “will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”
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