Even before the latest sexual harassment charges ended his career at Fox News, Bill O’Reilly had always been a magnet for squabbles and distractions.
Over the years, he’s faced charges of domestic abuse, accusations of numerous racist or racially insensitive statements, a custody battle, spats with colleagues over work credit and allegations of inaccuracies in reporting and tyrannical behavior on the job.
The fact that he’s carved out a lucrative 21-year run at Fox News and honed his brand to become arguably the most influential right-wing pundit, despite the controversies, speaks to his appeal as a TV showman.
But the 67-year-old’s nine professional lives could be coming to an end. In a brief statement, 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, said Tuesday: “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”
The confirmation comes hours after New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that the top executives of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, have decided to fire O’Reilly from his show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and are going over a list of replacements.
The discussions, probably among Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox chairman, and his sons, James and Lachlan Murdoch, come after a blistering New York Times report this month that detailed allegations of O’Reilly’s inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues. Fox and O’Reilly paid five women about $13 million in total in exchange for agreements to not sue or speak about the allegations.
O’Reilly and his lawyer have denied that he acted inappropriately.
"It is 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," O'Reilly said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
"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," he said.
In 2004, O’Reilly and a former producer of his show were involved in a heated legal battle, in which he alleged extortion. In seeking $60 million in damages, Andrea Mackris, the producer, claimed that O’Reilly had made lewd and offensive comments in phone conversations. They eventually settled the lawsuits later that year.
Fox News Channel says "Tucker Carlson Tonight" will begin airing an hour earlier to fill the time slot vacated by O'Reilly.
Starting Monday, Carlson's show will be followed at 9 p.m. EDT by "The Five," relocating from its afternoon slot.
"The Five" will be replaced at 5 p.m. EDT by a one-hour program hosted by Eric Bolling, to debut May 1. Next week, "Special Report with Bret Baier" will fill the 5-to-7-p.m. timeslot.
At 7 p.m. EDT, Martha MacCullum remains in place.
The departed O'Reilly's "The Factor" will continue through this week with Dana Perino hosting Wednesday and Thursday night, and Greg Gutfield on Friday.
Rounding out the Fox prime-time lineup, "Hannity" remains at 10 p.m. EDT.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.