Media mogul Rupert Murdoch gushed about Fox News to his employees on Thursday, but didn’t mention Bill O’Reilly, who has left for vacation since information about sexual harassment accusations against him have come to light.
“The first few months of this year have already given us much to be thankful for,” Murdoch, the Fox News chairman, said in a note to employees, Variety reported. He touted the “highest-rated quarter ever” for Fox News, adding that he was “tremendously proud and truly grateful for the hard work everyone has contributed” to both the news operation and Fox Business.
He offered no update on O’Reilly, who took off for vacation after Tuesday’s show amid rumors that he could lose his job with Fox News. The vacation — which O’Reilly said had long been planned and which is supposed to end in time for him to return to his program on April 24 — began less than two weeks after The New York Times reported that O’Reilly, Fox News and parent company 21st Century Fox had paid out $13 million to settle claims with five women who had accused the host of sexual harassment. Some 60 companies have since yanked their ads from “The O’Reilly Factor.”
O’Reilly has insisted that he is a target of unfounded attacks. New York magazine reported this week, however, that Murdoch’s son James, CEO of 21st Century Fox, wants him gone for good. Murdoch and son Lachlan are fighting for him to stay, according to sources.
Following substantial payments to settle sex harassment complaints against former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes — who left the company last year with $40 million — employees are increasingly wary of executives’ commitment to ending sexual harassment at the company, NPR reported.
“There’s sort of a contempt for O’Reilly from some of his colleagues, particularly female colleagues,” according to reporter David Folkenflik. “And there’s a cynicism about the degree of sincerity with which the Murdoch family and the top executives are operating.”
So far the scandal hasn’t hurt ratings for “The O’Reilly Factor.” The No. 1 program on cable has actually attracted more viewers, The Associated Press reports. O’Reilly’s program averaged 3.7 million viewers over five nights last week, up 12 percent from the previous week.
Fox’s parent company has hired the Paul Weiss law firm to investigate the claims against O’Reilly. It’s the same firm the company used to investigate Ailes.
One steadfast defender of the Fox News host: President Donald Trump. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” Trump said after the accusations were reported. “He is a good person.”