Bill O’Reilly‘s 20+-year career at Fox News has ended in disgrace, as allegations of sexual harassment continue to pour in from women who worked with the former “O’Reilly Factor” host. But there’s a chance he could have avoided this debacle, or at least exited gracefully with his reputation intact.
Back in July, when Fox ousted CEO Roger Ailes, there was a report that several Fox News anchors — including O’Reilly — had clauses in their contracts that would have allowed them to leave the network if Ailes left. Right there, O’Reilly could have made his exit, with an administration in turmoil and an unclear knowledge of the network’s vision going forward. He could have announced that he was going to take some time off, and then figure out his next move at a later date. Once the smoke cleared at Fox, and talk about a harassment culture at the network quieted down, he could have plotted his next move.
Instead, he decided to keep on keepin’ on.
Hey, he had made it this far, right? Anyone who really had a problem with him had already complained, right? And they’d been paid off to keep quiet, right? Right?
Or maybe O’Reilly wasn’t that arrogant. Maybe he saw the handwriting on the walls during the Ailes investigation and ouster, and figured there was a chance that tales of his alleged transgressions would surface whether he was still at Fox News or not. So if he was going to go down, he might as well parachute down into a bed of money. According to CNN, O’Reilly just signed a new contract last month, and with his dismissal, Fox News is paying him tens of millions of dollars in a buyout. Maybe O’Reilly factored the money into his decision to stay, deciding it was worth the payout to suffer the public crucifixion in the media.
If had to guess, I’d bet on the former, and that O’Reilly truly thought he’d get away with it. Men like O’Reilly abuse their power because they think the rules don’t apply to them. And indeed, at one point that appeared to be true. Kirsten Powers, now at CNN, described her own experience at Fox News, and how when she complained to higher-ups about O’Reilly, everyone told her that the host was too big and brought in too much money for them to do anything to him, even if they didn’t like his behavior.
Keep in mind, O’Reilly didn’t sign his new contract until weeks before The New York Times broke the story of how multiple women had accused him of harassment. CNN reported that 21st Century Fox, Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his sons knew the story was coming, and crafted their contract with O’Reilly accordingly, so they could agreeably part ways, should the situation call for it.
O’Reilly could have left months ago, possibly without getting dragged through the mud in the process. Instead, he decided to stay until his employers had no choice but to cut ties. Seems pretty apparent that he thought he’d get away with it up until it was clear he couldn’t.
[Image via Fox News screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.