Cassie Follman ’20
Fox News’ inaction is astounding in light of recent reports of Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment history. Their behavior demonstrates the fundamental issue in normalizing this gross mistreatment of women by allowing important figures to keep their power after such charges. Five women reported of either experiencing sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, with their settlements amounting to about $13 million. In the aftermath of these claims and subsequent settlements, there have been calls for O’Reilly’s termination and deeper investigations into the culture at Fox News.
As the top-rated host, O’Reilly’s program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” generates a significant amount of revenue for Fox News. It has been argued that this may be one of the reasons for the lack of action on the network’s part. Recently, a decrease in advertising support has placed pressure on the network to deal with the issue. Given this development, there is some hope that the network could be forced to perform action, if only to secure its financial power.
There have been debates amongst advertisers to retract their ads, and some have carried through. A spokesperson from Mitsubishi Motors (the O’Reilly Factor’s fifth-largest advertiser) declares, “[We] take these allegations very seriously, and we have decided that we will pull our advertising at the present time,” while a spokesperson from Angie’s List is quoted, “Just as we trust members to make their own hiring decisions, we trust them to make their own media consumption decisions.” Whether there will be significant financial repercussions remains to be seen, the high-profile circumstances of these advertisers removing their ads will no doubt create problems for the network.
This is not the first time that Fox News has dealt with circumstances like this concerning their most significant figures. Last summer, the founding chairman, Roger E. Ailes was removed from the network because of allegations against him that claimed he had been inappropriate to female employees. Multiple accusations of sexual harassment were filed against Ailes. Network executives sought to soothe the worries of employees and claimed that the company sought to create a respectful working environment.
The New York Times also said that, “three women who work in the newsroom said that the continued support of Mr. O’Reilly by Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, led them to question whether the company was committed to maintaining a work environment ‘based on trust and respect,’” The article went on to clarify that these women chose not to disclose their identity because they feared possible retribution. One must question the kind of society in which women fear the consequences of speaking out against harassment in their workplace.
The allegations against O’Reilly have led to reactions from outside organizations as well. The New York Times reported a statement from the National Organization of Women, with the president declares, “Fox News is too big and too influential to simply let this go,” in the hopes that an investigation could lead to a more comprehensive conclusion about the work culture that has allowed reoccurring cases of sexual harassment against female employees. Still, even as new accusations are filed, Ailes has reportedly refuted the truth of the sexual harassment claims.
While the case against O’Reilly is horrific and shows the deep-rooted issues that result from men abusing their positions of power, the case reflects a greater issue. Since the current President of the United States has been accused of sexual harassment, and has even bragged about this behavior, perhaps it should not come as a surprise that Fox News has yet to enact action against O’Reilly. The treatment of these cases is still incredibly disheartening, and employees should not fear their workplace because of their gender.
The decision of some companies to remove their ads from airing during “The O’Reilly Factor” is a small step, but will lead to discussion and attention from the media nonetheless. Regardless, it is imperative to work against the allowance of these figures to avoid consequences for their actions, and only continuous demands for action could lead to change in what has become the norm.