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Fox News drops Bill O’Reilly in wake of harassment allegations

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Fox News is cutting ties with Bill O’Reilly, the biggest star in its 20-year history, after mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior prompted the network to end his program.

“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations,” parent company 21st Century Fox said in a statement, “the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”

Today’s decision seemed unimaginable a few short weeks ago, given O’Reilly’s long reign as the top-rated host in cable news.

” … the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”

– Statement from 21st Century Fox

But the climate shifted dramatically after The New York Times reported on April 1 that O’Reilly or Fox had paid $13 million to settle five cases against him alleging sexual or other harassment. More than 50 advertisers withdrew from his prime-time show, and 21st Century Fox asked a law firm to investigate a complaint from a woman who said O’Reilly dropped efforts to make her a contributor in 2013 after she turned down his invitation to visit his hotel room.

O’Reilly, 67, had not commented on his status since leaving on vacation last week—he met Pope Francis today in a VIP line at the Vatican—but his lawyer issued a blistering statement yesterday accusing his liberal opponents of a “smear campaign.” The statement said O’Reilly “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”

O’Reilly’s departure comes nine months after Fox News founder Roger Ailes was forced out as chairman following a sexual harassment lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson and allegations by at least a half-dozen women, all of which he denied. One of them was Megyn Kelly, who also clashed with O’Reilly and who decided to leave Fox for NBC last December.

The net result is not just a transformation of Fox’s prime-time lineup, which has trounced the cable competition, but an effort by Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, to change the company’s culture and make clear that harassment is unacceptable. That became increasingly difficult, and spawned resentment among some female staffers, as O’Reilly’s problems became a dominant news story.

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