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Bill O'Reilly Out At Fox News After Sexual Harassment Allegations


TV host Bill O'Reilly won't be returning to Fox News from that holiday - ever. This afternoon, the controlling owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, announced that the network is dropping O'Reilly after a thorough review of sexual harassment accusations against him. In a statement, O'Reilly said - and this is a quote - "it is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been covering the controversy and joins us now from New York. And David, what happened in recent days to lead to the Murdoch family's decision to oust O'Reilly?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, it was pretty clear there was a bit of a split in the Murdoch family. Rupert Murdoch wanted to ride this out, see how it went. Bill O'Reilly is not a personal favorite of his, but he's made the network and the Murdoch family a lot of money, call it, in the nine figures for advertising. I mean it's over a hundred million dollars a year. And they thought perhaps this would blow over.

The sons said - James and Lachlan said this is a regressive face to be putting on Fox News right now. He is coming under scrutiny for sexual harassment accusations in the past. There were new ones being compiled in recent days that were seemingly just not going to end. There was a concern that this would be sort of the image attached to Fox News, particularly in light of the sexual harassment scandal that cost Fox News chairman Roger Ailes his job last summer.

SIEGEL: How bad is that that scrutiny of O'Reilly? Where do those accusations now stand?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, there have been new ones in recent days. The activist lawyer Lisa Bloom in Los Angeles has been filing other complaints on behalf of new clients and doing so for women whom she says aren't seeking financial compensation. That is, these are just women who want their stories heard. Most recently, there's an African-American woman who claimed that O'Reilly had really referred to her leeringly and looked at her in ways - talked to her in ways that sexualized her without in other ways conferring on her the sense of being a colleague.

And while one could if this were a one-off say, well, perhaps that's not that big a deal, but as The New York Times recently disclosed, the payments made by O'Reilly and his employers over the past dozen years have been in the neighborhood of $13 million. And there was a notion that this somehow might be a bottomless pit and would not allow Fox to get past the scandal and taint last summer. And this would be the issue that sort of defined Fox. I don't think that Lachlan and James Murdoch, the sons at 21st Century Fox, wanted that to be such a defining issue.

SIEGEL: Who replaces O'Reilly?

FOLKENFLIK: Tucker Carlson, a guy who's had a meteoric rise at Fox in recent years. He had been a weekend host, was a few months ago named to replace Greta Van Susteren at 7 o'clock, then named to 9 o'clock to replace Megyn Kelly when she decamped for NBC. And now here he is. The most valuable hour of real estate in cable news goes to Tucker Carlson.

SIEGEL: You obtained a memo from Murdoch to Fox's employees in which Murdoch says he was underscoring his commitment to a workplace built on trust and respect. What would you say the reaction of employees there has been to that?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I'd say that it's been skepticism verging on cynicism at least until today's announcement. There are still lawsuits outstanding against Fox News for how they handled sexual harassment complaints that are existing. And there's also another one involving complaints about racial discrimination by a former senior executive who just left the company some weeks ago. So they say if that's what the culture he's trying to create, there may be some miles to go on that.

SIEGEL: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thanks.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.