One afternoon closing month, when I become reporting a Profile of Tucker Carlson,
I met Bill inside the cafeteria at the Fox News Channel headquarters,
in midtown Manhattan. During the interview, we had been briefly interrupted with the aid of Bill Shine, the co-president of Fox News. When Carlson informed Shine that he become doing an interview, Shine spoke back mischievously. “Why isn’t he interviewing O’Reilly?” Shine stated. “His rankings are bigger!”
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Shine turned into kidding, but his funny story changed into based totally on a serious fact, and one that no person at Fox News can come up with the money for to disregard: the network become built on Bill O’Reilly’s capacity to draw a crowd. O’Reilly changed into inside the lineup while Fox News become launched, in 1996; years later, as the media feasted on the scandal surrounding President Clinton’s sexual dating with a White House intern, O’Reilly become moved from six o’clock to 8 o’clock, wherein his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” has remained ever due to the fact that. In the early -heaps, he did extra than another anchor to assist Fox News to displace CNN because of the USA’s most-watched cable-information network. Even at her election-fuelled peak, Megyn Kelly, who used to host the 9-o’clock hour, generally couldn’t in shape O’Reilly’s numbers. (This year, Rachel Maddow, at MSNBC, is incomes some of her satisfactory scores ever, and emerging as a worthy challenger to O’Reilly.)
But this week, for actually the primary time, O’Reilly looks inclined. Over the weekend, the Times_ pronounced that 5 women had obtained a total of “about $thirteen million” from O’Reilly or from his agency in trade for their silence approximately claims of sexual harassment or, in one case, “verbal abuse.” Two of the five instances had previously been mentioned, and there have been added two extra ladies named within the Times _report, one of whom has sued the community, together with Roger Ailes, the founding C.E.O. Of Fox News, for sexual harassment. Another female told the newspaper that O’Reilly reneged on a verbal job offer after she declined an after-dinner invitation to visit his lodge room.
In response, O’Reilly implied that all seven girls have been liars. “Just like different prominent and debatable people, I’m vulnerable to proceedings from folks that want me to pay them to avoid poor exposure,” he wrote on his Web website, adding, “I actually have positioned to rest any controversies to spare my youngsters.” O’Reilly’s announcement became—conspicuously—now not a profession of innocence, although 21st Century Fox, the discerning business enterprise of Fox News, issued a declaration saying that O’Reilly “denies the deserves of those claims.”
Not the whole thing in the Times article certified as a marvel: one of the ladies had sued O’Reilly in 2004, and her distinctive and stressful complaint become made public at the time. (The Smoking Gun published it the use of the tags “Funny” and “Revolting”; it blanketed a transcript of a smartphone communique wherein O’Reilly allegedly subjected the female to a sexual fable approximately showering with her and touching her with a “falafel”—obviously an approximation of “loofah.”) But the Times report becomes nonetheless stunning. By offering allegations from seven ladies, it made O’Reilly seem like a serial sexual predator. The public response to the thing became surprising, too: dozens of organizations introduced that they had been postponing classified ads on O’Reilly’s show.
This week, as insurance of the scandal was proliferating, one of the few places wherein it wasn’t mentioned became on “The O’Reilly Factor.” The display might start with its regular overture: “Caution,” O’Reilly stated. “You are approximate to enter the no-spin quarter.” O’Reilly delights in imparting himself as a nonpartisan truth-teller, giving viewers the straight dope; if he tends to heap outrage on liberals, the storyline is going, this is due to the fact they persist in being particularly outrageous. Much of his time on air this week become committed to the claims and counterclaims approximately Russia’s interference within the election; O’Reilly turned into mainly inquisitive about the alleged function played by Susan Rice, Obama’s country wide-safety adviser. But, on Thursday night, there was a strange moment while O’Reilly drew attention to the arrival of a lady colleague. He turned into introducing Judge Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host who is launching a new show, and he wanted the producer to transport from a shot of his face to a shot of hers. “On her, please—a good deal more photogenic than I am,” he said. “Judge Pirro—take a good look—is now going to host a show on the Fox broadcast network.”
As the furor surrounding O’Reilly has grown, predominant car groups and economic companies were appreciably absent from his display’s commercial breaks. Instead, current messages have protected an advertisement for Harvest Right, which permits purchasers to freeze-dry their dinner, retaining it in preparation for “regardless of the destiny may additionally convey.” (That business has a memorable ending: a family sits all the way down to consume a rehydrated dinner while, outdoor, a U.F.O. Attracts up a cow in its tractor beam.) On Thursday night time, the first commercial break consisted of a lone sixty-2d advert for Coventry Direct, which allows older people cash out their lifestyles-insurance rules.
In The _Hollywood _Reporter this week, Andrew Tyndall argued that O’Reilly may stay valuable to Fox News, in spite of a faded advertiser base, because his popularity obliges cable companies to encompass the network in their cable bundles, almost irrespective of the charge. “O’Reilly’s target audience is so large that it renders the carriage of F.N.C. Indispensable, thereby permitting the channel to charge cable operators pinnacle dollar, which is the true source of its splendid profitability,” he wrote. But that doesn’t mean that Fox News is completely insensitive to the needs of advertisers—and there is no guarantee that they will fast go back. The radio host Rush Limbaugh lost a number of major advertisers, in 2012, after calling a Georgetown regulation pupil a “slut” after she said that her college has to be obliged to consist of contraceptive insurance in its health-care plan. Limbaugh offered a partial apology, announcing, “I selected the incorrect phrases.” But many essential manufacturers stayed away, and his show, even as popular, has reportedly never recovered.
This week, Jack Shafer, the smart and provocative media author at Politico, argued that omnivorous media customers should be cautious of advertiser boycotts, now not due to the fact they don’t work but due to the fact they can work too nicely. “When we inspire company advertisers to police content material and commentators, we become making them the guardians and arbiters of journalism, continually an awful desire,” he wrote. Instead, he counseled that anyone with the aid of O’Reilly’s history of alleged abuse ought to do something easy: “Don’t watch his rotten display.”
Of course, most of the people already comply with this recommendation. On Wednesday night time, O’Reilly drew 3.6 million visitors, while Maddow drew 2.6 million. (Among visitors between the while of twenty-5 and fifty-four, which is the audience advertisers covet, she beat O’Reilly with 600 and seven thousand visitors, in comparison to five hundred and sixty-1000.) Those are big audiences for cable-news packages—and tiny fractions of us of A’s population.
In an e-book by means of Tucker Carlson from 2003, whilst he becomes working for CNN, he claimed that O’Reilly’s recognition changed into fragile as it required him to play the part of a regular man from Long Island:
O’Reilly’s success is built on the notion that he honestly is who he claims to be. If he ever receives caught out of individual, it’s over. If at some point he punches out a flight attendant on the Concorde for bringing him a pitcher of heat champagne, the whole franchise will come tumbling down. He’ll make the something-came about-to . . . ? Listing quicker than you may say “Morton Downey, Jr.”
Carlson becomes incorrect, of direction. O’Reilly has thus far proved to be remarkably resistant to the scandal, possibly due to the fact his lovers are so invested within the concept of him as a paragon of ornery decency, doing each day war in opposition to poseurs, schemers, and idiots. This, because it occurs, is the subject matter of O’Reilly’s new e-book, “Old School: Life inside the Sane Lane,” which made its début at the top of the Times fine-seller listing, and which O’Reilly promoted on the air this week. The e-book, written by the screenwriter and journalist Bruce Feirstein, is a breezy protection of the O’Reilly global view, which includes a few firm notions about gender family members. “I by no means enter an elevator before a woman or earlier than all interior walk out,” he writes. Part of what he expects from girls, he writes, is modesty: “You’re Old School if you examine pics of young girls on a purple carpet and your first notion is that they need to move domestic and get dressed.”
Is Fox News “antique college,” in O’Reilly’s feel? For years, the community regarded to perform by using its own guidelines, a world apart from the wider media panorama. (Jedediah Bila, a former Fox News contributor, recently said that the network insisted she wears clothes or skirts at the air. “I became instructed again and again that pants weren’t an option,” she said. A spokesperson for Fox News says that the community has no such policy.) The community’s culture may have started out to trade ultimate yr after Ailes resigned amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment. Now the network is reportedly dealing with a federal research, along with multiple proceedings alleging sexual harassment or racial discrimination. Shine, whom the Times as soon as described as Ailes’s former “proper-hand guy,” has to this point declined to offer either a forceful defense of O’Reilly or any disciplinary action towards him; the community’s different main stars were similarly quiet.
There is one excellent person who has spoken out on O’Reilly’s behalf: President Donald Trump, who informed the Times_ _that O’Reilly turned into “an amazing person” and stated, “I don’t think Bill did something wrong.” If Shafer is right that squeamish agencies have a propensity to escape from controversy, then Trump is proof of a unique dynamic. Once upon a time, possibly, Madison Avenue should come up with the money for to be edgy, at the same time as Washington politicians had to be bland and widely appealing. But within the Trump technology, that arrangement on occasion appears to be reversed. Corporations think like politicians, cautiously assembling demographic coalitions and looking to make sure that no segment feels excluded. Meanwhile, we’ve got a President who sold himself as a spot product, alienating roughly as many voters as he attracted and sneaking into the White House with 46.1 in line with the cent of the vote. O’Reilly, of direction, is concurrently a political discern and a company brand; for now, he likely has just about as many supporters as he ever did, together with a growing—and energized—institution of detractors. It is now as much as Rupert Murdoch, the government chairman of Fox News, to discern out exactly how treasured those supporters are, and how highly-priced the detractors is probably.