Bill O’Reilly’s reign as the top-rated host in cable news came to an abrupt end on Wednesday as Fox News forced him out after the disclosure of a series of sexual harassment allegations against him and an internal investigation that turned up even more, according to The NY Times.
During an appearance at an event in New York on Wednesday evening, James Murdoch stopped to answer a question about the decision, saying: “We did a thorough investigation, a thorough review, and we reached a conclusion. Everything that we said in our statement is all you need to know.”
The news of Mr. O’Reilly’s ouster came while he was on a vacation to Italy; on Wednesday morning, he met Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Mr. O’Reilly’s tickets to the Vatican were arranged by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York.
In a statement later in the day, O’Reilly praised Fox News but said it was “tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims.”
O’Reilly’s departure is the latest development in a tumultuous nine months at Fox News. In the aftermath of Mr. Ailes’s dismissal in July, the Murdochs pledged to clean up the network’s culture. But since then, it has been hit with new sexual harassment allegations, and female staff members said they remained fearful of reporting inappropriate behavior.
“This is a seismic cultural shift, when a corporation puts a woman’s rights above the bottom line,” said Wendy Walsh, a former guest on O’Reilly’s show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” who made allegations against him. “Today, we have entered a new era in workplace politics.”
The decision to force out Mr. O’Reilly, who was considered the network’s top asset, was a stunning reversal for a company that had long stood by him. After the dismissal of Mr. Ailes last July, the company reached two settlements involving sexual harassment complaints against O’Reilly.
The Wall Street Journal reports O’Reilly’s show had been the anchor of the evening, and his ratings power had boosted viewership for the shows that followed him.
To many, he was the face of the network, and it remains to be seen what he may do next, though speculation ranges from syndicated TV show to a radio broadcast or streaming service.
“He is what people think of when they think of Fox News,” said Andrew Tyndall, a television news consultant. If Mr. O’Reilly “goes somewhere else, that could be a real threat to Fox News,” he said.
Mr. O’Reilly also has a lucrative book career to fall back on.
Henry Holt & Co., an imprint owned by Macmillan Publishers that publishes Mr. O’Reilly’s books, said its “plans have not changed” regarding future titles written either by Mr. O’Reilly or with his cooperation. More than 17 million copies of Mr. O’Reilly’s books published by Holt are in print in all formats, and his latest title “Old School” is No. 1 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.