Amid a sexual harrassment scandal, Fox's Bill O'Reilly surprised viewers tonight and announced he will be taking a "planned" vacation until April 24th. The timing is interesting as over two dozen companies - including Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, BMW and Allstate - have pulled advertisements and as NYMag.com reports, two highly-placed Fox News sources say 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch would like O’Reilly to be permanently taken off the air.
As HollywoodReporter notes, O'Reilly assured viewers that his trip was planned long ago, as he takes a vacation “often around this time of year," in order to dispel any notion that it was a forced suspension. He announced that he’d scheduled his trip “last fall” - well before the New York Times reported he paid $13 million to settle harassment claims.
A Fox News source told NYMag.com's Gabriel Sherman that O’Reilly plans to return to his show on April 24. But according to four network sources, there’s talk inside Fox News that tonight’s show could be his last. Lawyers for the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer by 21st Century Fox to investigate Roger Ailes, are currently doing a “deep dive” investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior. They’re focused now on sexual harassment claims by O’Reilly guest Wendy Walsh after she reported her claims via the company’s anonymous hotline.
O'Reilly previously dismissed the charges in a statement posted to his official site soon after the report was published.
"Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline," the statement read.
"But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children. The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me."
But as NYMag reports, Fox News co-president Bill Shine has been working hard to keep O’Reilly, sources said. But O’Reilly’s future is in the hands of the Murdochs. “It’s up to the family,” the senior Fox News staffer said. The Murdochs are presently divided over how to handle it.
Two highly-placed Fox News sources say 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch would like O’Reilly to be permanently taken off the air, while his father Rupert and older brother Lachlan are more inclined to keep him.
(A spokesperson for the Murdochs declined to comment.)