Twenty advertisers have announced they were withdrawing their ads from “The O’Reilly Factor” after an investigation revealed multiple settlements involving the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly over sexual harassment allegations and inappropriate behavior.
“Mitsubishi Motors takes these allegations very seriously and we have decided that we will pull our advertising at the present time,” Alex Fedorak, a Mitsubishi spokesman, said in a statement. Mitsubishi spent about $2.1 million for ads on O’Reilly’s show in 2016, making it the show’s fifth-largest advertiser, The New York Times reported.
As of late Tuesday, twenty advertisers had boycotted the show. CNN Money listed them: Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, BMW of North America, Mitsubishi Motors, Lexus, Constant Contact, Bayer, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Orkin, UNTUCKit, Allstate, Esurance (which is owned by Allstate), T. Rowe Price, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Credit Karma, Wayfair, The Wonderful Company, TrueCar, and the Society for Human Resource Management.
Color of Change, which describes itself as “the nation’s largest online racial justice organization,” launched a campaign focused on the advertisers. “Their money and support is keeping him on the air,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of the organization, told the Times. “It is rewarding his actions. It is rewarding the damage he has done to people in their lives and their careers.”
His organization launched a petition to #DumpOReilly, arguing that the Fox News host “is a purveyor of sexual violence who has consistently used his platform to promote hateful and divisive rhetoric that attacks women, Black culture, and civil rights.” Besides these political smears, the group alleged that “O’Reilly has used his position of power on the network to prey on vulnerable women and attempt to force himself sexually on them — harassing subordinates with disgusting phone calls and threatening to fire them for not giving in to his lewd and misogynistic advances.”Similarly, the National Organization for Women called for Fox News to fire O’Reilly and called for an independent investigation of the culture at the news channel.
Fox News announced that it was working to restore relations with advertisers, announcing that ad buys will be redirected to other shows. “We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about The O’Reilly Factor,” Paul Rittenberg, the executive vice president of advertising sales at Fox News, said in a statement. “At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.”
O’Reilly’s show consistently gets the network its best ratings, drawing almost 4 million viewers a night, and generating more than $446 million in advertising revenue between 2014 and 2016, according to Kantar Media. Perhaps for this reason, many advertisers decided not to pull their ads from the program.
Jenny Craig, the weight-loss company, said it “condemns any and all forms of sexual harassment.” But it would not say whether or not it was pulling ads: “We are constantly evaluating our media buys to maximize the efficiency of our corporate investment and effectively reach our target audience.” An ad for this company aired during O’Reilly’s show Monday night.
Quincy Bioscience, which also aired an ad during Monday night’s “Factor,” said, “We don’t publically [sic] comment on our advertising. As a company we condemn all forms of sexual harassment.”
Garment company SCOTTeVEST expressed optimism “that Fox will take the appropriate actions if these allegations are true.”
Business reviewing website Angie’s List told The Daily Beast, “We do not have plans to change our ad buy.” In a statement, the company’s spokesman said, “We place ads across a wide spectrum of venues intending to reach as many viewers/listeners/readers as possible without taking a position on the viewpoints of the venues themselves. Just as we trust members to make their own hiring decisions, we trust them to make their own media consumption decisions.”
The New York Timesreleased the report on O’Reilly’s sexual harassment cases on Saturday. The Times reported that Fox News and O’Reilly cumulatively paid around $13 million in settlement money to five female colleagues who accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Two cases, those of Andrea Mackris and Juliet Huddy, were previously known, but the report unearthed three others cases involving former Fox Business Network host Rebecca Diamond, former O’Reilly junior producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, and ex-anchor Laurie Dhue.
Later that day, O’Reilly issued a statement denying the allegations. “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” the Fox host declared. “In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.”
Twenty-First Century Fox has reportedly extended O’Reilly’s contract, which had been set to expire this year. Fox reportedly structured the deal to include more leverage over his behavior. The host reportedly earns about $18 million a year.
While the situation is very embarrassing, it seems unlikely O’Reilly will actually be fired. As for the veracity of the allegations, it is impossible to say at this time, although the scandal with Roger Ailes last summer suggests it is in the realm of possibility.
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