Fox News has found a vocal ally in the form of President Donald Trump, who has taken to voicing his support for talk show host Bill O’Reilly and disgraced former station chief Roger Ailes.
Both men have come under fire after being investigated for sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and a litany of other accusations filed by women working with the network. Ailes publicly resigned from his post in July of 2016 after the network announced his impending termination.
O’Reilly came into the spotlight after The New York Times ran an article on April 1st, revealing that he and Fox have paid out upwards of $13 million in settlements. Of the five lawsuits broached by the Times, two had previously been publicized, including one which was settled for $9 million in 2004.
The allegations suggest that O’Reilly had frequently made disparaging and lewd comments to female Fox staff and O’Reilly Factor guests. He was also said to have coerced women into trading sexual favors for career advice and advancements and would reportedly masturbate while placing phone calls.
Crisis communications manager Mark Fabiani was hired by O’Reilly to control damaging press. In a statement released to The New York Times, Fabiani wrote on behalf of his client:
“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” the statement read. “In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.
“But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”
Despite O’Reilly’s denial of the claims being stacked up against him, The O’Reilly Factor and its host network, Fox, have taken a big hit. Corporations like Hyundai, GlaxoSmithKline, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz have all pulled advertising spots from the show’s timeslot, either abandoning Fox in full or relocating to the commercial breaks on other programs.
The O’Reilly Factor has long been one of Fox News’ best-performing shows, having brought in billions of dollars for the network since its inception.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-President Trump placed his weight firmly behind Roger Ailes, saying he felt “very badly” for the man. He added, “I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them.”
Now, as commander-in-chief, Trump is trying to use some of his presidential clout to back Bill O’Reilly. He called the anchor, who has interviewed Trump in the past, a “good man,” while simultaneously declaring an ex-Obama official a “criminal.”
“I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person,” Trump said of O’Reilly.
“I think he shouldn’t have settled. Personally, I don’t think he should have settled,” said the President, characteristically repeating himself for effect. “Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
Trump’s support for Ailes and O’Reilly comes months after the President was himself caught up in controversy. About a dozen women had accused him of sexual misconduct and harassment during the presidential campaign.
Fox announced it is opening its own inquiry into the allegations against O’Reilly, days after it defended the longtime talk-show hot.