By Jim Kouri
To say that Fox News Channel dumping their top personality Bill O’Reilly surprised and saddened me is beyond understatement. He is the man who practically pushed Fox from being a fledgling 24-hour operation to a news network powerhouse that dwarfed the television ratings of Ted Turner’s Cable News Network (CNN) and NBC’s 24-hours news operation MSNBC.
O’Reilly, according to Fox’s news media analyst Howard Kurtz, is arguably the biggest broadcast news star in FNC’s 20-year history. But now, after the pile-on of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior towards women, the crown-jewel of Rupert Murdock’s Newscorp has given Bill O’Reilly the “bums’ rush” out of the Newscorp headquarters building on New York City’s Avenue of the Americas
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations,” Fox said in a press statement, “the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.” And if some didn’t believe this development in O’Reilly’s personal scandal, the news media was all abuzz over the news that FNC would turn over the highly desirable 8:00 p.m. spot on Fox to its up-and-coming talking head, Tucker Carlson.
The New York Times, a newspaper slammed often by O’Reilly, reported on April 1 — ironically April Fools’ Day — that Bill O’Reilly or Fox News had paid out over $13 million to make five cases against him alleging sexual or other harassment go away.
More than 50 advertisers withdrew from his prime-time show, and 21st Century Fox asked a law firm to investigate a complaint from a woman who said O’Reilly dropped efforts to make her a contributor in 2013 after she turned down his invitation to visit his hotel room.
O’Reilly said in a statement Wednesday: “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.”
“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 also said in his statement.
This writer’s first meeting with Bill O’Reilly occurred in the Fox News Channel’s “green room” where guests have makeup applied and wait to go on the soundstage for the show’s taping. I’ll always remember O’Reilly walking in and approaching me and the surprise I experienced when I saw him. He looked more like a basketball player (6″5″) or coach than a newsman.
But what truly impressed me about Bill O’Reilly was his intellect. He is arguably the most intelligent man on television. I was also impressed that he actually read my press kit, my book (Crime Talk: Conversations with America’s Top Crimefighters) and my notes that I’d faxed to his producer earlier that day. The topic that evening was police use of physical force.
The following appearances on behalf of the Chiefs of Police Association had me fielding O’Reilly’s questions on the Chandra Levy murder case, the Beltway Sniper case, police and minorities and others. While he doesn’t hold back, he was always fair with me. I’d been on other Fox News shows with Steve Doocy (Fox & Friends), Paula Zahn (The Edge), Geraldo Rivera at Large, and others, but I’ve always believed Bill O’Reilly was the best of the best, the most intelligent and most honest newsperson I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
He will be missed.