One of television’s most successful and top-rated cable news hosts, Bill O’Reilly, was fired on Wednesday, April 19, after a series of sexual harassment allegations were uncovered following an internal investigation.
The author of “Killing Reagan,” “Killing Lincoln,” “Killing Jesus” and “Killing Patton” has now killed his career, but he still gets to keep his millions of dollars.
An April 1 article in The New York Times described the results of an investigation The Times had conducted.
“A total of five women [have] received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him. The agreements totaled about $13 million,” the article reads.
The Times published a statement from O’Reilly on the overall situation where he speaks on his passion for working with Fox but also denies that these allegations against him are indeed factual.
“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,” O’Reilly said. “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims.”
There have been numerous sexual harassment suits filed against O’Reilly, and the women who have come forth have ultimately called attention to sexism in the workplace. However, it should not have taken years of silence and ignorance to bring down this sexist scumbag.
The willingness of Fox News to pay women for their silence after they were subjected to sexual harassment is appalling. It willfully put its female workers in an environment that was uncomfortable and unsafe in order to preserve O’Reilly’s reputation. In doing so, the company made it clear that it valued O’Reilly over its female workers.
Luckily, many other people were less willing to value him over those he harassed. “The O’Reilly Factor” lost more than half of its advertisers after The Times article was released, according to BBC.
One common guest on O’Reilly’s show, Jehmu Greene, said she had experienced harassment from him when she first started appearing on the network but before she came a full-time contributor, according to the New York Times.
In 2007, Greene reported that O’Reilly had told her that she should show more cleavage in the makeup room.
Just around two years later, Greene made an appearance on O’Reilly’s show. Before the segment, the two discussed a bet they had made for dinner where Greene had won the bet, but Mr. O’Reilly had never paid up, according to the New York Times.
Greene said O’Reilly then told her that while she might want to “break his bank” with the restaurant choice, he “was more interested in breaking my back,” according to the New York Times.
“I don’t think that these comments were focused from a sexual standpoint,” Greene said. “I think they were more of a power standpoint to put me in my place.”
Although some of O’Reilly’s viewers abandoned him after his actions were uncovered explicitly, the amount of time it took for O’Reilly to be removed illustrates the prevalence of rape culture still in the U.S. Perhaps even more illustrative of the rape culture in this country is the president this country elected and the voters who still support him. Amongst one of O’Reilly’s few remaining fans is President Donald Trump, who unsurprisingly defended O’Reilly after Fox News released the news of his termination.
As long as Americans are willing to look the other way when women are subjected to harassment and assault, there will be no progress. There is no place for any form of harassment towards men or women, whether it is in the workplace or not. Even as Fox News terminates O’Reilly’s employment, it is doing little to truly punish O’Reilly for his actions. As if it is not bad enough that Fox News allowed this situation to continue for so long, he is still receiving his pay. The New York Times reported that O’Reilly is “leaving Fox News with a payout of up to $25 million, the equivalent of one year of his salary.”
Simply put, it is good that O’Reilly has been ousted at Fox News. But there is no reason it should take the loss of millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of every major sponsor from a television show in order to oust a man who has sexually harassed numerous women. Those cases of harassment should be, by themselves, enough cause to drop a TV personality.
Some people may ask themselves: how did we come to live in a world littered with sexist leaders? If you are not fighting back and working toward a solution to the problem, then you are contributing to the problem itself.
Trump gets away with his “locker room talk” and gets elected president. O’Reilly can do whatever he wants and walks away with a $25 million payout. This is the world we are living in — one where money helps to cover up and advance sexist behaviors.
“Killing O’Reilly” is not a new story. In fact, it is just another series of stories we see and have become numb to as a result of the institutionalized sexism we witness in our everyday lives. If we want to see real change, we must follow in the footsteps of the women who spoke out against O’Reilly.
“The lesson, and it’s a wonderful one, is to be brave,” Micheline Maynard, business journalist and educator, told The Washington Post. “As women, we are taught not to speak out, not to ruffle feathers, to just be good and work harder. I wish we weren’t as hesitant, and now maybe we won’t be.”
Hopefully, something positive will come out of this appalling situation. It is crucial to speak out and ruffle feathers in the face of injustice.