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Leon Kaye headshot

Advertiser Exodus Continues As O’Reilly Leaves for ‘Vacation’

By Leon Kaye

“He’s one of the saner ones on that network,” a relative of mine said recently when "O'Reilly Factor" host Bill O’Reilly came up in conversation.

Tell that to Fox News’ advertisers, who have been fleeing the network’s top-rated show since the newswires a New York Times investigation revealed Fox and O’Reilly shelled out $13 million over 15 years to settle sexual harassment allegations.

As 3p’s Tina Casey explained last week, the result was a mass exodus of advertisers from O'Reilly's show before boycotts could even begin to have any impact on those companies’ bottom lines. The advertisers themselves are leading the boycott, and that collective action may be keeping Fox’s executives awake at night.

Meanwhile, while Variety magazine pointed out that the the amount of paid advertising on O’Reilly’s show showed a slight uptick on Monday after cratering last week, over 60 advertisers have pulled their ads from the controversial pundit’s show.

As Daniel Holloway outlined Variety, that slight boost in advertising during O’Reilly’s hour-long show is most likely due to the shift of ads from cost-conscious sponsors who pay for “daypart” instead of show-specific ads. That lower cost allows Fox to choose when the lower-priced ads run.

Meanwhile, popular brands such as Advil, BMW, H&R Block and Mercedes-Benz are among the advertisers that have disappeared during “The O’Reilly Factor.”

And the news is only getting worse for O’Reilly, who initially said such accusations only emerged because of his wealth and fame. Then came the call to 21st Century Fox’s anonymous hotline from former Fox News guest commentator Wendy Walsh, which prompted an investigation now led by a leading New York law firm.

On Wednesday, O’Reilly abruptly announced he was going on vacation – one that he claimed was scheduled last fall. So, is the end of O'Reilly?

Bloomberg is among the news organizations assuming he will return. But Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine says sources indicate that O’Reilly’s “vacation” could allow him to exit gracefully from Fox News’ stage.

This saga certainly has the Murdoch family and Fox News’ executives in a bind, as O’Reilly’s fans clearly do not want him to go. After all, ratings for his show have increased 12 percent since the sexual harassment became publicly known, Fortune reported this week.

If Fox News' leadership actually decides to get rid of O’Reilly, some may wonder what took the media company so long to cut ties with him in the first place.

The longtime reporter and pundit has been caught fudging the truth about being an eyewitness to conflict in the Falkland Islands, El Salvador and Northern Ireland. In recent years, O’Reilly suggested that instead of wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts, Black Lives Matter protestors should wear clothes emblazoned with, “Don’t Get Pregnant at 14." And in an attempt to fact-check former first lady Michelle Obama’s speech at last summer’s Democratic National Convention, O’Reilly argued that although slaves did indeed help build the White House, they were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.”

Nevertheless, Fox News continued to showcase O’Reilly as he succeeded in both ratings and advertising dollars. But asmajor brands are become more sensitive to politics than ever before, that relationship may change now that some of America’s most widely-recognized brands no longer wish to have any association with the mercurial author and news anchor.

Image credit: Adam Gessaman/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye