It’s official: Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News. What exactly does that change? What stays the same?
On April 1, The New York Times wrote that O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, have paid out at least $13 million in settlements with five women reporting sexual harassment by O’Reilly. After weeks of relentless activism from progressive organizers including Media Matters, of advertisers pulling their ads from the O’Reilly Factor time slot, of more courageous women coming forward to share their own reports of misconduct by O’Reilly, of hundreds of sexual violence survivors asking Fox to do better, O’Reilly has been deemed too toxic for Fox.
O’Reilly’s smug on-camera demeanor, his attacks on women for speaking up, and his attempts to blacklist media outlets that reported on his sexual harassment settlements as far back as 2004 will be diminished if not gone for good. The lies he tells about women’s bodies and the blame he lays squarely at women’s feet every night will be silenced, at least for now.
But what happens to the company, and the culture, that allowed him to thrive for so long? O’Reilly abused the power he was given by Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Shine, and Jack Abernethy. These are the same men who greenlighted a sham investigation into the workplace culture at Fox News, who oversaw decades of mistreatment of women employees, and who profited when O’Reilly and his peers (including replacement Tucker Carlson) launched racist and sexist attacks on their shows.
Only one of those men is no longer in the picture, because he, too, abused the power he had to harass women. The rest remain, and thus it also remains to be seen if Fox News will actually change for the women it employs.
What’s more, the way women move through the world won’t change because of O’Reilly’s firing. The statistics won’t change with the downfall of one man.
One in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 has been sexually harassed at work.
More than 90 percent of women who work in tipped wage positions in restaurants have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
About 70 percent of women who experience workplace sexual harassment do not report it, for fear of retaliation.
Our culture won’t change this quickly either. The pain of countless women lingers in O'Reilly's wake.
Bill O’Reilly won’t be around every night to remind me -- and, I’m sure, countless others -- of the men who have hurt and violated us in the past. But the president of the United States will be; in fact, he’s come to O’Reilly’s defense.
Image at top created by Sarah Wasko.