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Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai pull ‘O’Reilly’ ads on sexual harassment claims

LiveMint logoLiveMint 04-04-2017 Gabrielle Coppola

New York/Seoul: Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai Motor Co. are pulling advertising from the top-rated Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor because of claims of sexual harassment levied against its host.

“The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” Mercedes, a unit of Daimler AG, said in a statement. Hyundai said it’s “reallocating its advertisements” slated for the program because of the assertions, which the Korean carmaker also called “disturbing.”

The decision is likely to put only a small dent in the armour of Fox News, which has triumphed in the ratings over the past year even as a sexual-harassment scandal surfaced around its former president, Roger Ailes, leading to his departure in July. Corporate parent 21st Century Fox Inc.’s shares are up 12% over the past year, thanks in part to the large audience for Fox News, its most profitable network, and Bill O’Reilly, its most popular host.

But more allegations are coming to light against O’Reilly, showing that Ailes’s departure may not put an end to the scandal for Fox. The New York Times reported over the weekend that five women have received payments from either 21st Century Fox or from O’Reilly in exchange for agreeing not to sue or talk about their allegations that O’Reilly verbally abused them, subjected them to unwanted advances or made lewd comments.

“We seek to partner with companies and programs that share our values of inclusion and diversity,” Hyundai said in a text message. “We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as we plan future advertising decisions.”

Fox has stood by O’Reilly, who has said he is a target for such allegations because of his prominence. Rupert Murdoch, the 86-year-old billionaire who is co-chairman of the parent company, stepped in as chairman and acting CEO of Fox News Channel after Ailes’s ouster.

“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behaviour very seriously,” a company spokesman said in a statement last weekend. “Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly.”

Fox didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about Mercedes pulling its advertising. A representative for Mitsubishi Motors didn’t immediately comment. Jaguar Land Rover said it wasn’t currently planning to pull ads from Fox. The British luxury-car maker recently decided to stop advertising on Google’s YouTube over concerns of placement of ads next to hateful videos.

CNN reported on Mercedes’s decision earlier. Bloomberg

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