Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has helped set the bar for the normalization and dissemination of right-wing hatred, offering incendiary commentary about sexual harassment and assault, gender, race and ethnicity, low-income people, the LGBTQ community, Muslims and refugees, immigrants, and reproductive rights. Now that O'Reilly has been forced to step down from The O'Reilly Factor after an advertiser revolt over revelations that Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid $13 million in settlements to women who came forward with reports that O’Reilly was a sexual predator, Media Matters takes a look back at some of the lowlights of his career, including his history of inaccurate and embellished reporting.
O'Reilly's Tenure At Fox News Has Come To An End
21st Century Fox: “Bill O'Reilly Will Not Be Returning To The Fox News Channel.” In a April 19 statement, 21st Century Fox announced, “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, ... Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”
NY Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman: “Bill O’Reilly’s 21-Year-Run At Fox News Will Come To An End.” According to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, sources briefed on the discussions surrounding Fox host Bill O’Reilly’s status at Fox News said network executives at Fox News were “preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure” before he returns from vacation:
The Murdochs have decided Bill O’Reilly’s 21-year run at Fox News will come to an end. According to sources briefed on the discussions, network executives are preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure before he returns from an Italian vacation on April 24. Now the big questions are how the exit will look and who will replace him.
Wednesday morning, according to sources, executives are holding emergency meetings to discuss how they can sever the relationship with the country’s highest-rated cable-news host without causing collateral damage to the network. The board of Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the matter. [New York Magazine, 4/19/17]
Advertisers Fled O’Reilly Factor After Reports Of Sexual Harassment From Host
NY Times Found That Five Women Received Settlements After Reports Of Sexual Harassment And Abuse Committed By Fox's Bill O'Reilly. A New York Times investigation found that 21st Century Fox and Bill O’Reilly paid $13 million to settle with five women who said the host engaged in sexual harassment or verbal abuse. The report explained that the women “complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating,” adding, “The reporting suggests a pattern: As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.” From the April 1 report:
For nearly two decades, Bill O’Reilly has been Fox News’s top asset, building the No. 1 program in cable news for a network that has pulled in billions of dollars in revenues for its parent company, 21st Century Fox.
Behind the scenes, the company has repeatedly stood by Mr. O’Reilly as he faced a series of allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior.
An investigation by The New York Times has found a total of five women who 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 women who made allegations against Mr. O’Reilly either worked for him or appeared on his show. They have complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews.
The reporting suggests a pattern: As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.
Of the five settlements, two were previously known — one for about $9 million in 2004 with a producer, and another struck last year with a former on-air personality, which The Times reported on in January. The Times has learned new details related to those cases.
The three other settlements were uncovered by The Times. Two involved sexual harassment claims against Mr. O’Reilly, and the other was for verbal abuse related to an episode in which he berated a young producer in front of newsroom colleagues. [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
At Least 80 Advertisers Fled The O’Reilly Factor After Reports Of Sexual Harassment Settlements Came To Light. According to a count by Media Matters at least 80 companies announced they would no longer advertise during The O'Reilly Factor following The New York Times report. [Media Matters, 4/4/17]
Over the course of his career, O’Reilly has repeatedly smeared women who reported sexual harassment or assault by others, particularly while defending former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes after several women came forward to say that Ailes harassed them. O’Reilly has also engaged in victim-blaming, at one point suggesting a woman was at fault for being raped and killed because she was “wearing a miniskirt and a halter top” in New York City.
O’Reilly Blamed A Woman For Being Raped And Killed, Saying She Was “Moronic” And That She Was “Wearing A Miniskirt And A Halter Top. … Every Predator In The World Is Gonna Pick That Up.”
[Westwood One, The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly, 8/4/06]
O’Reilly: “I Stand Behind Roger [Ailes] A Hundred Percent” Amid Reports Of Sexual Harassment.
[NBC, Late Night with Seth Meyers, 7/13/16]
O’Reilly: “I’m Not Interested In” Reports Of Sexual Harassment At Fox, Because It “Makes My Network Look Bad.”
[CBS, CBS This Morning, 11/15/16]
O'Reilly On Megyn Kelly’s Sexual Harassment Reports: “If Somebody Is Paying You A Wage, You Owe That Person Or Company Allegiance.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 11/15/16]
O’Reilly has also said that “the sexual harassment thing is used as a club … by many women,” smeared a woman who said President Donald Trump sexually assaulted her on an airplane for not reporting it at the time, and dismissed a video in which Trump bragged about sexual assault as merely “crude guy talk.”
Inappropriate Comments To Women On Air
O’Reilly has also made multiple inappropriate sexual comments to women on air, including asking a colleague for video of her jogging and sweating and calling for a “full-body search” of female co-host Lis Wiehl.
O'Reilly Asked Colleague Heather Nauert For Video Of Her Jogging And Sweating.
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/10/14]
O'Reilly Called For “A Full-Body Search” On Co-Host Lis Wiehl; Added That She “Asked For It.”
[Westwood One, The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly, 11/3/05]
O’Reilly Called Wiehl A “Good-Looking Girl” And Suggested She Learn To Dance.
[Westwood One, The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly, 11/14/05]
O’Reilly also said Wiehl was “eye-candy” and that she was on the show “because you’re good-looking, so I got somebody to look over.”
O’Reilly has made numerous sexist comments over the course of his career, including insisting that feminists should not be allowed to report on Trump and claiming that “there’s got to be some downside to having a woman president.”
O'Reilly: “There's Got To Be Some Downside To Having A Woman President.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 2/26/14]
O'Reilly: Feminists Should Not Be Allowed To Report On Trump “Because Trump Is The Antithesis Of” Feminism.
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 5/17/16]
O’Reilly has also asserted that statistics regarding the gender wage gap don’t account for “the emotional difference between men and women” and that Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf “should be baking pies, not running a major city.”
O’Reilly has a storied past of racist remarks and race-baiting, including his assertion that slaves who built the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” In an interview, O’Reilly also told Trump that African-American people are “ill-educated and have tattoos on their forehead.”
O'Reilly: Slaves Who Built White House Were “Well-Fed And Had Decent Lodgings Provided By The Government.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/26/16]
O’Reilly: Blacks Are "Ill-Educated And Have Tattoos On Their Forehead.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 4/11/16]
O'Reilly: I “Didn't Hear A Word” Rep. Maxine Waters Said Because Of Her “James Brown Wig.”
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/8/17]
O’Reilly: I Was Surprised That “There Was No Difference” Between A Black-Owned Harlem Restaurant And Other New York Restaurants. In 2007, O'Reilly “couldn't get over the fact” that Sylvia's, a black-owned restuarant in Harlem, “was exactly the same” as other restaurants “even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship.” O'Reilly added, “There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'” [Westwood One, The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 9/19/07]
O'Reilly: “Is There Any Difference” Between Black Lives Matter Protesters And Nazis?
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 4/10/17]
O’Reilly: “There Is A Reason” Why Black People Are “Singled Out” By Police.
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/29/16]
O’Reilly: African-Americans Should Wear “Don’t Get Pregnant At 14” On Their T-Shirts.
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 12/17/14]
O'Reilly: “Many, Many, Many” Hurricane Victims Who Failed To Evacuate New Orleans Are “Drug-Addicted ... Thugs.”
[Westwood One, The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly, 9/13/05]
O’Reilly has an incredibly long history of making racist remarks, once suggesting that “the left wants power taken away from the white establishment” and is trying to get it by reforming the Electoral College. Additionally, O’Reilly has attempted to support his claim that he does not “know any racists” by pointing out that he has a black assistant, complained that the terms “sexism and racism” are “being used to punish” bigots, hosted former KKK leader David Duke on his show, said that black entertainers like Beyonce and “gangster rappers” should not be celebrated, and declared that “Santa was a white person,” but that “any talk of skin color brings out the zealots.”
O’Reilly has also repeatedly disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement, comparing its activists to Nazis and members of the KKK, calling the movement a hate group that wants police officers dead, surmising that Martin Luther King Jr. would not support the movement, and blaming the group for the apparent “rise of fascism on American college campuses.”
Additionally, O’Reilly defended an offensive segment his program aired in which correspondent Jesse Watters went to New York’s Chinatown neighborhood to “sample political opinion,” which was widely panned as “disgusting” and “anti-Asian.” O’Reilly said: “We’re proud” of Watters.
O’Reilly has consistently shamed the poor and homeless, often characterizing them as drug users and lazy. O’Reilly has even denied the existence of child hunger as “a total lie” and claimed that “all the things that poor people have” prove that America doesn’t “really have any destitution anymore.”
O'Reilly: Child Hunger Is “A Total Lie.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 10/6/15]
O'Reilly: Homeless People Are Criminals Who Are "Urinating And Defecating In The Streets.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 1/4/17]
O'Reilly: I Don't Know If Jesus Would Be “Down With” Welfare.
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 12/3/13]
O’Reilly: “All The Things That Poor People Have” Prove America Doesn’t “Really Have Any Destitution Anymore.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 9/20/14]
O’Reilly has also called for unconstitutional mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients and said that homeless people “will not support themselves” because “they want to get drunk” and “high” or are just “too lazy.” O’Reilly has also suggested that homeless people “shouldn’t be allowed to destroy neighborhoods” in New York City.
O’Reilly has made numerous bigoted comments about the LGBTQ community, particularly aimed toward transgender people. O’Reilly has claimed that “from the waist down,” Caitlyn Jenner “is a he” and suggested that gay marriage could lead to goat, duck, dolphin, or turtle marriage.
O'Reilly: “From The Waist Down,” Caitlyn Jenner “Is A He.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/28/15]
O'Reilly: Could Bakers Be Forced To Make Cakes For Nazis After SCOTUS' Marriage Ruling?
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/1/15]
O'Reilly: Gay Marriage Could Lead To Goat, Duck, Dolphin, And Turtle Marriage.
[Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 5/11/09]
O'Reilly And Watters Laughed While Speculating On Interviewee's Gender Identity
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 10/15/15]
Additionally, O’Reilly has said that he did not want the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization to march in the Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day parade because he did not “want these people intruding on a parade where little children are standing there watching”; produced a segment on his show -- once again hosted by Watters -- making fun of people attending San Francisco’s gay pride parade; suggested that the movie Animal House should dictate policy on transgender rights; and said that allowing students to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity “seems Twilight Zone-ish.” O’Reilly has also questioned whether transgender voters would get a “special booth”; compared anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people to forcing a black person to attend a KKK meeting; mocked a teen for wearing makeup by saying that “he’s not a woman”; asserted that if you are a “sex-change person” that you could just go to prison to fund “the operation”; and compared trans-inclusive locker rooms to a Hooters without chicken wings. O’Reilly’s history of anti-LGBTQ hatred has been well documented.
O’Reilly has repeatedly attacked Muslims and refugees, including labeling the refugee crisis in Europe “the dramatic Muslim invasion.” He has also claimed that former President Barack Obama’s “emotional attachment to the Muslim world has hurt the U.S.A.” and advocated profiling all “Muslims between the ages of 16 and 45.”
O'Reilly: Obama’s “Emotional Attachment To The Muslim World Has Hurt The USA.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/6/16]
O’Reilly: “The Fact Is That Most Of The Terror Violence In The World Comes Out Of Muslim Precincts.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 1/14/16]
O'Reilly: The Refugee Crisis In Europe Is A “Dramatic Muslim Invasion.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 9/15/15]
O'Reilly Advocated Profiling All “Muslims Between The Ages Of 16 And 45.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 8/16/06]
O’Reilly has also asserted that the influx of refugees into Europe was what the continent “deserves now for sitting out the whole war on terror”; called for a one-year ban on all refugees; and criticized Obama for sending the message that terrorism is “not really the fault of the Muslim world.”
O’Reilly frequently disparaged immigrants, particularly Latin American ones, on his show. He has asserted that there is “plenty of downside” to letting undocumented youths -- or “Dreamers” -- stay in the country and said stereotyping Mexicans should not be considered offensive.
O'Reilly Complained That Stereotyping Mexicans As Mustachioed Sombrero Wearers Singing “Guantanamera” Is Considered Racist.
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 11/10/15]
O’Reilly: An “Illegal Immigration Apartheid” Is “Now On Display In Certain Parts Of The Country Due To Lax Immigration Policies.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 6/28/16]
O’Reilly: “There’s Plenty Of Downside” To Letting Undocumented Youths Stay In The U.S.
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/29/14]
In addition, O’Reilly has falsely assumed that an accused cop killer in California was an “illegal alien” and used the slur “anchor baby” to discuss immigration. O’Reilly also has a pattern of treating immigrants and “working people” as mutually exclusive.
O’Reilly has relentlessly campaigned against women’s right to choose and has been deeply engaged in the right-wing misinformation campaign surrounding abortion, even suggesting that women can choose to have an abortion because they have a migraine.
O'Reilly: Some Women Could Choose To Have An Abortion Because They Have A Migraine.
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 4/15/16]
O'Reilly: “Animals Get More Protection Than The Unborn In This Country.”
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 4/4/16]
O'Reilly Compared Democrats Who Advocate For Abortion Access To Nazis.
[Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 8/3/15]
O’Reilly has even attacked Planned Parenthood following a fatal shooting at one of its clinics, declaring that the organization “deserves much of the harsh criticism.”
O’Reilly has also come under fire for making inaccurate and embellished comments about his time as a foreign correspondent, and he has made false claims related to refugees and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
O’Reilly Hosted A Fake Swedish Defense “Advisor” To Fearmonger About Refugees. On the February 23 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly hosted Nils Bildt, who was introduced as “a Swedish defense and national security advisor,” to criticize the country’s policies toward refugees. Swedish officials, however, said they “do not know who [Bildt] is,” and that he is “definitely not a spokesman for the Armed Forces.” O’Reilly later apologized, calling the criticism “valid.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 2/24/17, 2/27/17]
O’Reilly Claimed “He Acted Heroically In A War Zone That He Apparently Never Set Foot On.” O’Reilly has been called out by several journalists for overstating his experiences as a CBS News correspondent covering the 1982 Falklands War. According to Mother Jones, “O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny--even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.” Journalists from CBS, CNN, NBC, and The New York Times, as well as historians, have slammed O’Reilly’s claims about his reporting. [Media Matters, 2/24/15]
O’Reilly Falsely Claimed He “Heard” A Gunshot Blast That Killed A Figure In The Investigation Into JFK’s Assassination. O’Reilly has repeatedly claimed that while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977, he personally “heard” the shotgun blast that killed a figure involved in the investigation into former President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. However, his report was undermined by his own colleagues, a police report, and officials who investigated the assassination. [Media Matters, 2/24/15]
O'Reilly Inflated Or Misrepresented Multiple Other Incidents Related To His Career During The 1970s, 1980s, And 1990s.
O'Reilly claimed he witnessed civilians get killed during a protest in Buenos Aires; other reporters and a historian say no such deaths occurred.
O'Reilly claimed he saw nuns get shot in the head in El Salvador; he later acknowledged he had only seen photos of the deceased.
O'Reilly has told two different stories about his El Salvador reporting trip; in one he says he witnessed an intense firefight, but in the other he makes no mention of the dramatic events.
O'Reilly claimed to have seen terror attacks in Northern Ireland; he later admitted he had only seen photos of those events.
O'Reilly claimed to have been attacked by protestors while reporting for Inside Edition during the 1992 Los Angeles riots; this was subsequently disputed by six of his former colleagues. [Media Matters, 4/7/15]
Images by Sarah Wasko.