Embattled Fox News host Bill O’Reilly announced tonight that he is taking a vacation. O’Reilly’s decision to go off the air in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal and advertiser boycott arguably has the appearance of a suspension, but O’Reilly worked to dispel that notion. He announced that he’d scheduled his trip “last fall” — well before the New York Times reported he paid $13 million to settle harassment claims. A Fox News spokesperson confirmed O’Reilly will return on April 24.
Here’s how O’Reilly talked about his vacation on the show Tuesday night.
But according to four network sources, there’s talk inside Fox News that tonight’s show could be his last. Lawyers for the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer by 21st Century Fox to investigate Roger Ailes, are currently doing a “deep dive” investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior. They’re focused now on sexual harassment claims by O’Reilly guest Wendy Walsh after she reported her claims via the company’s anonymous hotline.
Fox News co-president Bill Shine has been working hard to keep O’Reilly, sources said. But O’Reilly’s future is in the hands of the Murdochs. “It’s up to the family,” the senior Fox News staffer said. The Murdochs are presently divided over how to handle it. Two highly placed Fox News sources say 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch would like O’Reilly to be permanently taken off the air, while his father, Rupert, and older brother, Lachlan, are more inclined to keep him. (A spokesperson for the Murdochs declined to comment.)
That dynamic — James pushing for swift action, while Rupert resists — played out last summer in the Ailes scandal. James, of course, got his way with Ailes. With more than three dozen advertisers boycotting O’Reilly, Fox staffers speculate the same may happen to O’Reilly, perhaps as early as during his vacation. “The assumption is that he’ll exit in a non-embarrassing way,” one senior Fox News staffer told me.