In the past couple weeks, seemingly all at once, allegations that Bill O’Reilly harassed and abused his coworkers, coupled with the revelation that Fox News and O’Reilly quietly paid five women millions of dollars worth of settlements, became too much to justify keeping the king of cable news on the air. O’Reilly’s ouster had to do with the over 50 advertisers that pulled their spots from his primetime show, which not only made The O’Reilly Factor helmed by O’Reilly untenable, but it also humiliated an already humiliated network.
Jezebel spoke with famed civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who has a long history of representing women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace, just after the news that O’Reilly and Fox News had parted ways broke on Wednesday afternoon. In our talk, Allred said that she viewed this as a “historic” turning point. (Allred’s daughter, attorney Lisa Bloom, represents three O’Reilly accusers.)
“I think that advertisers spoke in a loud voice. The stampede of advertisers running away from Bill O’Reilly’s television show and deciding they would not invest their advertising dollars,” Allred said. “I think that that was a big turning point, and I think that the advertisers understood that it would not go well with the public if in fact they continued to advertise on the show. The loss of that huge income to Fox News Channel I think really caused them to have to look at the benefits and the risks of keeping Mr. O’Reilly and I think they understood that there was no way to reverse what became a PR disaster and justify keeping him on Fox News Channel.”
“I’m very proud of any woman who stood up for herself in this situation and Mr. O’Reilly I think has no one to blame but himself for all of what has occurred.”
It remains to be seen whether Fox News will again try to brush aside its larger, systemic issues around the treatment of women, but regardless, Allred is sure that it “sends a very, very loud and important message” to other corporations that they will be held accountable for employees accused of sexual harassment.
“Their risk is high, that is that of the corporation, and especially if there’s more than one allegation of sexual harassment, if they are on notice of that and they continue to employ that person, it could cost them—not only in the court of public opinion, but in the court of law. Or in settlements. So looking at a corporation’s bottom line, they’re really going to have to rethink what they’re going to do if others in their workplace are accused of sexual harassment in the future,” she continued.
“I think we’re starting to see a shift in public opinion where there’s going to have to be a price to be paid by those who are accused of sexual harassment and the cost of the wrongdoing is going to be borne by the harasser and not just by the victim.”
To hear the rest of the interview, download our upcoming episode of our politics podcast Big Time Dicks, this coming Friday.