On Monday night’s edition of The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly told his viewers, “I like to take time off around Easter, it’s calming.” Last night, he announced that he was taking that time off, explaining that around this time each year, he “grab[s] some vacation, because it’s spring and Easter time. Last fall, he added, “I booked a trip that should be terrific.” O’Reilly made sure to get the timeline of that booking in, lest anyone think he was taking any time off because he’s suddenly become Fox News’s most toxic asset, and that advertisers are fleeing his nightly Old Man Yells At Cloud Hour as quickly as their motorized scooters can carry them. No siree bob, he is taking a planned vacation, in the middle of the work week, as cable anchors so often do. Happens all the time!
The bad press and mass exodus of O’Reilly’s sugar daddies comes as a result of a New York Times report earlier this month, in which the “failing” newspaper uncovered $13 million worth of payouts to settle complaints of sexual harassment from female subordinates and guests, who accused him of “a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating.” (Good morning.) At least one of these settlements was widely known at the time – Andrea Mackris, recipient of the notorious “falafel” call – but two older settlements were previously unknown, and two more apparently dated back to Fox News’ “housecleaning” last summer, after Roger Ailes’s dismissal for similar complaints.
Taken together, much like the reemergence and re-framing of the allegations against Bill Cosby, they paint a picture of a serial sexual predator, and the pressure against advertisers to stop lining O’Reilly’s pockets resulted in a steep drop in ad buys for the show. According to The Washington Post, the Factor used to average 33 national ads for a total of 14 minutes of commercial time; last Friday, the show ran a measly seven national ads, filling only 4 minutes and 40 seconds. (The list of advertisers that remain is sort of hilarious.) The show has had to produce additional content to fill ad time – or just turn their time over to other anchors.
And to be clear, forced vacations are part of the playbook over at Fox. Glenn Beck took a reportedly unplanned vacay back in 2009, not long after his whole “Obama has a deep-seated hatred for white people” thing; Megyn Kelly abruptly took a mid-week sojourn following her feud with Donald Trump during the presidential primary (and the harassment that ensued). But they both returned as scheduled, and stayed with the network for months to years; New York’s Daily Intelligencer, citing four network sources, says O’Reilly may not be back. “Two highly placed Fox News sources say 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch would like O’Reilly to be permanently taken off the air,” writes Gabriel Sherman, “while his father, Rupert, and older brother, Lachlan, are more inclined to keep him.” (Meanwhile, O’Reilly’s ratings have been boosted by this controversy.)
O’Reilly will return to the Factor on April 24th, maybe.