As you probably know by now, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc ended its relationship with Bill O’Reilly at Fox News following what are being called allegations of sexual harassment, the revelation of them in the news media despite Fox’s pay-out of over $13,000,000 to the women who were involved, and a subsequent wide-spread boycott of his high-rated show “The O’Reilly Factor.”
1. Good. Long, long overdue, but good. Fox News should have fired O’Reilly after the first sexual harassment episode which was years ago; it is a firing offense in ethical organizations for most employees, and the fact that Fox allowed its most influential and most profitable star to skirt accountability and survive to harass again was a classic example of the rationalization known as The King’s Pass, or The Star Syndrome.
2. The fact that Fox News creator, leader, and boss Roger Ailes was also jettisoned after a sexual harassment scandal showed at the time that the organization had developed an unethical culture that was hostile to women….as Ethics Alarms pointed out last July. (“There seems to be a culture of sexual harassment at Fox, coming down from the rotting fish head in charge, Roger Ailes.”) This was the other shoe dropping.
3. O’Reilly issued a carefully crafted statement composed with the assistance of a “crisis consultant”:
“Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television,” O’Reilly said in a statement. “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”
I would say the Bill is lying through his teeth with the “unfounded” part, but sexual harassers often don’t think they have done anything wrong. They think they were just being “nice,” or they think their advances were misunderstood, or they believe that the harassment accusations are a cover for something else. Ailes also denies that he did anything wrong. This is typical. It would have been a wonderful thing if O’Reilly could admit that his conduct was wrong and apologize to the victims while sincerely promising to change, but like most harassers, he couldn’t mount the character and the acknowledgement of hard reality to do it.
4. What is more damaging, perhaps, is that so many of O’Reilly’s fans and followers will believe his self-delusion because they also don’t “get” sexual harassment, and think the whole issue is manufactured feminist nonsense and political correctness. Boys will be boys! Everybody does it!
5. If there is anyone who is informed and intelligent and still followed Bill O’Reilly without constant cognitive dissonance, they should be ashamed of themselves. If one was alert, Bill constantly revealed himself as a blowhard who was convinced he was smarter than he was, or perhaps more accurately, knew he was faking it and adopted a assertive, intimidating and self-righteous persona as cover for his own insecurities.
The signature significance moment for O’Reilly’s intellectual and educational deficits came in 2000, when he complained that murderer David Westerfield’s defense attorney was “lying” by zealously defending his client. O’Reilly passed his ignorance and outrage on to millions, and even launched a campaign to get the attorney disbarred. O’Reilly also was fond of citing his educational credentials, often telling his audience that he was a “Harvard graduate.” Waving the Harvard banner publicly is a lot like candidate Donald Trump constantly telling us how smart he is (it is evidence of the opposite) and in O’Reilly’s case, it’s misleading too. Yes, O’Reilly is technically a Harvard grad, as he has a masters degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, but that not what most of his audience thinks he means. They think he is saying that he graduated from Harvard College, and that’s exactly what he wanted them to think.
6. The consensus seems to be that Fox dumped O’Reilly, not because he contributed mightily to the hostile work environment at the network, but because it feared long term financial repercussions of the bad publicity. Wrote the Times,
“Lost revenue is one matter and tarnished reputation another. If the financial fallout from the O’Reilly backlash was relatively minor — many advertisers simply shifted their spending to other Fox News programs — it was difficult to ignore the public image of at least 50 major brands withdrawing support from the network’s most popular host.”
Well, that’s depressing, but it is probably accurate. Fox fired O’Reilly because they saw him as a liability, not because it believed that harassing female employees was anything to get all upset about. When they paid out hush money and damages to his accusers, it was the unethical practice we call “Ethics accounting” at Ethics Alarms: O’Reilly was making so much money for Fox that the $13 million was regarded as a cost of doing business.
You fire sexual harassers because sexual harassment is intolerable workplace conduct and management behavior that destroys lives and organizations. That’s why, and not because it isn’t profitable.
7. On CNN, MSNBC, social media and elsewhere, O’Reilly and Fox News foes were expressing outrage that O’Reilly is leaving with a $25,000,000 pay-out, the equivalent of one year’s salary under his now-dead contract. This is either ignorance or stupidity on the part of these critics. First, sexual harasser or not, Fox News made a fortune on O’Reilly’s talents and toil. There is nothing wrong or excessive about acknowledging that with the equivalent of a year’s salary in a severance package. Second, this was a negotiated settlement. O’Reilly had many ways to make Fox miserable, and enough loyal followers to cost the network a lot more than $25 million as it fought a lawsuit and public backlash. Bill is also, as Fox News knows, a nasty, vindictive guy. It got off cheaply.
8. This reaction by the anti-O’Reilly forces also shows that those pushing for O’Reilly’s ouster were less concerned with the welfare of women in the workplace than silencing a powerful voice on the Right that interfered with progressive propaganda. The organized boycott threats against sponsors were a means of killing a political adversary, and that was the primary motive. Many of these same champions of women in the workplace never complained about Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment activities, or Joe Biden’s hands wandering over the bodies of young women trapped in photo ops with the VP. They have betrayed their true intentions with their unseemly gloating over O’Reilly’s fall, and also by blurting out comments like those of New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, who hinted on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Fox News’s Sean Hannity be fired next, saying, “I think you have to look at somebody like Sean Hannity and question whether or not his — almost propaganda-like attitude and programs every night is going to be acceptable in the minds of the family, which is clearly trying to shift the network.”
Wait: wasn’t this was about sexual harassment?
[To be continued…]