Fox News’s most-popular host, Bill O’Reilly, is taking what he called a long-scheduled vacation after revelations of financial settlements over alleged sexual harassment.
While New York magazine reported Tuesday that 21st Century Fox Inc. CEO James Murdoch wants him to step down permanently, people familiar with Fox’s plans said Mr. O’Reilly intends to return to the “The O’Reilly Factor.” The people asked not to be identified because the matter is private.
Mr. O’Reilly’s holiday until April 24 follows a wave of companies pulling advertisements from his prime-time show, the cable news channel’s biggest. The media group controlled by Rupert Murdoch has been dealing with the fallout of alleged sexual harassment at Fox News since last summer, leading to the ouster of its former Chief Executive Officer Roger Ailes. The claims against Mr. O’Reilly, reported in the New York Times, add to pressure on a company that is seeking regulatory approval for its bid for Sky PLC.
“Last fall I booked a trip that should be terrific,” Mr. O’Reilly told viewers. “All of us deserve a break.”
Fox News anchors Dana Perino will fill in Wednesday night and Monday through Thursday next week, while Bret Baier will host Thursday’s show and Greg Gutfeld will fill Mr. O’Reilly’s seat Friday this week and next, a person familiar with the situation said.
“Other than the vacation guest hosts, The Factor broadcast will remain unchanged,” Mark Fabiani, an attorney representing the host, said by e-mail. Mr. Fabiani said arrangements for the vacation were made in October and the timing coincides with Mr. O’Reilly’s children’s spring break.
Fox said in a recent statement that it “investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters.”
The New York Times reported last week that five women received payments from either 21st Century Fox or from O’Reilly in exchange for agreeing not to sue or talk about their allegations that Mr. O’Reilly verbally abused them, subjected them to unwanted advances or made lewd comments. Fox said no employees had raised concerns about Mr. O’Reilly and it had been looking into the matter in recent months.
No one has filed a complaint about Mr. O’Reilly with the company’s human resources department over the more than 20 years he has been at Fox News Channel, the host said in an April 1 statement.
Fox News, which accounts for an estimated quarter of Fox’s profit, has stayed on top in cable ratings despite the internal turmoil. The network remains the most-watched on cable year-to-date, with 2.8 million average daily viewers, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis. Ratings have seen a bump by several appearances of President Donald Trump.
— Bloomberg News