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Bill O’Reilly Taking Vacation While Harassment Controversy Still At Full Boil

Deadline logo Deadline 4/12/2017 Lisa de Moraes
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Bill O’Reilly announced at the end of tonight’s The O’Reilly Factor that he’s going on vacation, returning later this month, and announced a “Guess Where Bill Is Going” online contest. This constitutes news because O’Reilly has yet to publicly address a New York Times report that Fox News and its primetime star had, between them, allegedly paid five women nearly $13M in settlements going back 15 years.

Navel lint-gazing ensued immediately after he made his announcement; pundits wondered if he actually would return; if it had, in fact, been planned in advance; if the vacay would help quell the controversy and the major advertiser bailout from his program – more than 70 companies at last count – in the wake of the report. Also, what exactly did O’Reilly mean when he said, “We all need R&R. Put it to good use?”

Fox News parent, 21st Century Fox will investigate the sexual harassment claims, the lawyer of one of his accusers said Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources.

EVP Ad Sales Paul Rittenberg said, in the early stages of the advertiser bailout, that Fox News was working with the companies “to address their current concerns about The O’Reilly Factor,” adding, “At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.”

Presumably, while O’Reilly is vacationing, President Donald Trump will continue to stand by his longtime friend. Trump recently told The New York Times in an Oval Office sit-down, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

“He’s a person I know well; he’s a good person,” Trump said of O’Reilly, adding that the primetime host’s only mistake was in settling the claims. “I think he shouldn’t have settled, personally. I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way,” said POTUS, whose presidential campaign survived the release of an old Access Hollywood video in which he was heard bragging about being so famous he could grab women “by the p*ssy” with impunity.

The O’Reilly Factor has been the most-watched program in the cable news landscape for 14 years, recently clocking its highest-rated quarter ever.

The O’Reilly situation is a genuine nightmare for FNC’s mother company because, when Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes exited last summer in a hail of sexual harassment allegations, parent 21st Century Fox had pledged zero tolerance for any behavior that “disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.” The company recently re-upped O’Reilly’s contract and, NYT, in its report, said some of the payments were made since Ailes’ exit.

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