As Fox News parts ways with longtime host Bill O’Reilly, some may be tempted to claim that his departure is a sign that the network and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, care about women who have been sexually harassed. But the decision has nothing to do with the systemic toxic misogyny Fox News traffics in; it’s about the bottom line.
Following an April 1 New York Times story reporting that O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox together paid a total of $13 million to five women who said O’Reilly sexually harassed them, dozens of advertisers began to pull their ads from his Fox News program, The O’Reilly Factor. Estimates suggest that the boycott could cost the network nearly $40 million in advertising revenue. It wasn’t until it was faced with this loss in revenue that the media company decided to part ways with O’Reilly.
If Fox cared about creating a safe workplace culture for women, O’Reilly would have been gone years ago. According to the Times, O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox paid a $9 million settlement in 2004 to O’Reilly Factor producer Andrea Mackris who reported that O’Reilly harassed her. 21st Century Fox continued to employ O’Reilly and other serial harassers and enablers for more than a decade after that settlement, even re-signing his contract with Fox News through 2020 just weeks ago.
It’s no secret that Fox News fosters a culture of toxic misogyny. In the past year, several women have come forward saying former CEO Roger Ailes sexually harassed them. And the men who went on to replace Ailes have their own histories of covering up serial harassment or reportedly engaging in harassment themselves. The network has continued to hide behind the investigation it commissioned the law firm Paul, Weiss to conduct after women spoke up about Ailes, but that examination has been revealed as a total sham.
Fox is not even hiding its sexist crap behind the scenes. Just hours after the network announced that O’Reilly was leaving, Fox co-host Greg Gutfeld -- part of The Five, which will soon take over a 9 p.m. slot on the network in the aftermath of O’Reilly’s firing -- engaged in textbook sexual harassment by telling his female colleague that she was giving America an erection. And the other men filling prime-time slots in O’Reilly’s wake are sexist pigs, too.
Fox News didn’t fire O’Reilly until he was losing the network money. Even then, the top executive was hesitant to let him go. While losing O’Reilly makes Fox a safer place for women to work without fear of harassment, that wasn’t what drove this decision. It was money.
Graphic by Sarah Wasko