Bill O'Reilly was not most hosts. From October 1996 until April 2017 -- an unprecedented two-decade run -- O'Reilly became the face and voice of Fox News Channel. His populist rhetoric, unapologetic approach and unlimited ego made him the most popular cable news personality in the country.
This week, it all ended. O'Reilly was fired by Rupert Murdoch and his two sons after a story
earlier this month in The New York Times detailed the fact that Fox and O'Reilly had paid out more than $13 million in settlements to five women alleging that O'Reilly had sexually harassed them in the workplace.
O'Reilly continued to deny the allegations until the bitter end, which came amid a vacation in Italy that saw him meet Pope Francis on the same day the ax fell on his Fox News career. His statement on his dismissal is vintage O'Reilly:
"Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television. It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims."
Fox cast the move as a necessary step in cleaning up a corporate culture and reputation already soiled by similar sexual harassment claims directed at Roger Ailes, the behind-the-scenes architect of Fox News's success over the past two decades. (Ailes resigned
in July 2016.) Critics argued that O'Reilly's removal had less to do with the allegations against him and more to do with the fact that more than 50 advertisers had pulled their money out of the show in the wake of the New York Times story.
Regardless of what finally forced Fox's hand, O'Reilly, the cable channel's biggest ratings draw, is now out. The company moved quickly to rejigger its lineup -- putting Tucker Carlson in O'Reilly's 8 p.m. slot and moving "The Five," a group chat show, to the 9 p.m. hour. The belief within the network is that while O'Reilly is a big ratings loss, what he and Ailes helped build is self-sustaining -- and that the names on the top of the shows don't really matter.
And, O'Reilly isn't likely to disappear anytime soon. He's set to appear on his "No Spin News" podcast Monday night, according to his personal website. (He also walked away with tens of million of dollars as part of his setttlement
But, O'Reilly was already rich. What he craved more than anything was the spotlight, the nightly soapbox to let fly with his views about politics and culture. He lost that this week.
Bill O'Reilly, for going from cable's penthouse to its outhouse, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.