At least 22 prominent advertisers have distanced themselves from Fox News primetime show “The O’Reilly Factor” amid series of sexual harassment allegations against the show’s long-time host and huge misogynist, Bill O’Reilly.
The commercial defection came after The New York Times published a bombshell report alleging O’Reilly and his employer cumulatively paid about $13 million to five women to settle claims of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.
The world already knew about the claims filed by former Fox News hosts Juliet Huddy and Andrea Tantaros, but the report unveiled three other plaintiffs – former Fox Business Network host Rebecca Diamond, former O’Reilly junior producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, and ex-anchor Laurie Dhue – that no one knew about.
The report was followed by another set of accusations, this time by Wendy Walsh, a former frequent guest on O’Reilly’s show. Walsh claimed the political commentator not only made unwanted sexual advances towards her, he also retaliated when she rejected him.
Feeling the mounting pressure, automakers Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai – two of the most important corporations – announced to pull their ad campaigns from running during the hit cable show. Several high-profile carmakers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, real estate and financial firms followed their decision.
“In light of the disturbing allegations, we instructed our media buyer this morning to reallocate our ad dollars to other shows effective immediately,” Aaron Sanandres, chief executive of men's clothing company Untuckit, said in a statement.
As the Reuters reported, shares of Fox News’ parent company, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., fell 1.2 percent to $31.75 on Tuesday.
The move is sure going to hurt both O’Reilly and Fox News, but it also raises one very important question: why did it take advertisers over a decade to take action against the cable personality and the network?
O’Reilly has been at the center of sexual harassment allegations marring Fox News since 2004, when the Smoking Gun published the text of a sexual harassment lawsuit former “The O’Reilly Factor’ producer Andrea Mackris filed against the conservative analyst.
The humiliating audio tapes, where the host was heard trying to lure Mackris into initiating a sexual liaison, also made headlines but O’Reilly managed to come out of it unscathed after settling the case for $9 million the same year.
His belligerent misogyny only got worse after that.
O’Reilly sued his ex-wife, Maureen McPhilmy, for $10 million and the couple’s teenage daughter told a court-appointed forensic examiner that she saw her father “choking her mom” as he “dragged her down some stairs” by the neck.
Last year, Andrea Tantaros, in her lawsuit, alleged the host of the right-wing show tried to lure her into a “very private” meeting on Long Island where he could see her “wild side.” She also called the network a “sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.”
Similarly, Huddy, who hosted “Fox & Friends Weekend” before moving on to “The O’Reilly Factor,” claimed the host not only made unwanted advances toward her on multiple occasions, but even tried to force himself on her when she visited his house.
At the time the same advertisers who are now abandoning the ship left, right and center ignored the matter, further enabling O’Reilly and the conservative news network. Over the past years, no one batted an eye and the show continued being a prime time hit. Had someone said something before, the problem might not have worsened to this degree.
However, the fact that the advertisers, although a bit too late, are finally doing something to distance themselves from the right-wing network is commendable.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters