NEW YORK: Fox News cut its ties with Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday, dumping America’s most-watched cable news anchor over a flood of sexual harassment allegations and dwindling advertising.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement.
The announcement followed growing reports that the corporation headed by Rupert Murdoch intended to sack the veteran host and just hours after the right-wing television personality was photographed shaking hands with Pope Francis in Rome.
The combative host, who has worked at Fox for 21 years, is currently on what he called a "long-planned break" but had originally intended to return to his nightly show on April 24.
New York magazine reported Wednesday that executives were preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure before his return from Italy and were holding emergency meetings to discuss how to sever the relationship without damaging the network.
O’Reilly shot into the headlines earlier this month when the New York Times reported that he and Fox had paid five women a total of $13 million in cases spanning 15 years, in exchange for their silence and agreement not to sue.
O’Reilly had not directly denied the allegations, saying he was “vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity.”
His dismissal on Wednesday comes less than a year after Roger Ailes, the 76-year-old former executive who built up Fox News, resigned under a cloud of his own sexual harassment accusations.
President Donald Trump, an avid Fox News watcher, had leapt to O’Reilly’s defense following the New York Times report, calling him "a good person."
But despite rising ratings, dozens of companies yanked their advertising from his show.
"The O’Reilly Factor" has been hosted by a rotating cast of substitutes in his absence, including Dana Perino, former spokeswoman for president George W. Bush.