NEW YORK, April 19 (Reuters) - Fox News has decided to part ways with star host Bill O‘Reilly following allegations of sexual harassment, New York magazine reported on Wednesday, citing anonymous sources briefed on the discussions.
O‘Reilly said in an April 1 statement that he had been unfairly targeted because of his public prominence. Marc Kasowitz, O‘Reilly’s lawyer, said in a statement on Tuesday that the television host “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”
It is not known exactly how Fox News will handle O‘Reilly’s exit or whether he would be allowed to say goodbye to viewers on the air, according to the New York magazine report.
Representatives at Fox News and its parent Twenty-First Century Fox Inc were not immediately available for comment. A representative for O‘Reilly declined to comment.
The New York Times reported on April 1 that Fox and O‘Reilly, a 20-year veteran of the conservative cable network, paid five women a total of $13 million to settle harassment claims.
O‘Reilly said in the statement at the time that he had settled only to spare his children from the controversy.
After the report advertisers including BMW of North America , Allstate Corp, French pharmaceuticals maker Sanofi SA and T. Rowe Price, pulled their advertising from O‘Reilly’s primetime “The O‘Reilly Factor” show.
The five women who received settlements either worked for O‘Reilly or appeared as guests on his program, according to the New York Times story.
Fox News anchor Laurie Dhue accused O‘Reilly and Fox News founding chairman Roger Ailes of harassing her, but not sexually, and Juliet Huddy, a regular guest on O‘Reilly’s show, accused him of pursuing a sexual relationship with her and trying to hamper her career after she rejected his advances, the newspaper reported.
The largest settlement was a payout of $9 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit former Fox News producer Andrea Mackris brought against O‘Reilly in 2004, according to the New York Times.
Ailes was forced to resign in July after being accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women, including former anchor Gretchen Carlson. Ailes has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Twenty-First Century Fox has tapped the law firm Paul, Weiss Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which also looked into the allegations against Ailes, to investigate O‘Reilly’s conduct.
“The O’Reilly Factor” is the most watched program on Fox News and is coming off the highest-rated first quarter in its history, averaging 4 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
The network has continued to enjoy high ratings despite the exodus of advertisers from O‘Reilly’s show and a spate of allegations that executives turned a blind eye to sexual misconduct there. (Reporting by Tim Baysinger and Jessical Toonkel; Writing by Anna Driver and Editing by Tom Brown)