Fox News finally broke its on-air silence about Bill O’Reilly’s exit Wednesday.
After the network remained mum for hours on the announcement that the network’s top-rated anchor would not be returning to the channel amid a wave of sexual harassment allegations, resident media reporter Howard Kurtz addressed the topic on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
“Bill O’Reilly, the biggest star in the 20-year history of Fox News, is leaving in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct,” reported Kurtz, the host of “MediaBuzz,” Fox News’ weekend media analysis show.
The news, which broke just before 2:30 p.m., had gone unreported by the channel until Kurtz’s appearance around 6:20 p.m., even as competitors like CNN and MSNBC devoted numerous segments and panels to the developments at Fox News over the course of the afternoon.
21st Century Fox announced Wednesday afternoon that O’Reilly would not be returning, citing the rash of recent allegations levied against the outgoing anchor. Earlier this month The New York Times reported that Fox News had settled several harassment claims against O’Reilly. Since the report was unearthed, advertisers began to flee the network as condemnation of O’Reilly grew.
Kurtz reported Wednesday that “the climate had shifted dramatically” on O’Reilly following the Times report detailing the harassment settlements. The Fox News media critic also noted that O’Reilly exit came after the “forced resignation” of Roger Ailes, who similarly left the network nine months ago after allegations of sexual misconduct.
Kurtz also noted that Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and CEO of 21 Century Fox, had stressed the importance of changing the culture at Fox News so women felt comfortable coming forward with claims of sexual violence and harassment.
“Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, have emphasized changing the company’s culture so any form of harassment in unacceptable,” Kurtz noted.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” the company said in a statement.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, O’Reilly denied all allegations, calling the developments "tremendously disheartening."
"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," he said.
During the report, Kurtz also alluded to Fox News’ shifting lineup in the wake of O’Reilly’s departure, which will see Tucker Carlson take over for O’Reilly in the 8 p.m. spot while one of the channel’s daytime political talk show, “The Five” will move to the 9 p.m. slot.