MEDIA

After Five Harassment Settlements, O’Reilly Advertisers Pull Out

25 companies have dropped the Fox News show as allegations against its host pile up.

MEDIA
REUTERS
Apr 05, 2017 at 10:10 AM ET

How many harassment settlements against its host does it take for “The O’Reilly Factor” to lose advertisers? Not one, not two, but five.

At least 25 companies have pulled their ads from Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” after The New York Times reported that millions of dollars have been paid out to at least five women who claimed that O’Reilly harassed them sexually or verbally since 2002.

O’Reilly, whose show has topped Fox News’ ratings (as well as the ratings for all cable channels) for years, has cost the channel and himself a combined $13 million to settle harassment claims, the Times found ($10 million of that was personally paid by O’Reilly, the Wall Street Journal said). One of those was reported back in 2004 after a former producer on O’Reilly’s show sued him for sexual harassment, which was widely reported at the time; a second, reached in 2016, was reported last January. The other three — a verbal harassment claim settled in 2002 and two sexual harassment claims settled in 2011 and 2016 — were not previously known. Two of the sexual harassment settlements were reached after allegations about former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment became public in summer 2016. Ailes denied any wrongdoing but resigned from the company, and several women who accused him of sexual harassment received settlements.

“I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” O’Reilly told the Times.

In the aftermath of the Times’ report, Axios reported that at least 25 companies that currently advertised or were planning to advertise on “O’Reilly” have pulled out. Many made statements to the effect that they believed their companies were inclusive workplaces for women and so did not believe “O’Reilly” was a good venue for their products. It seems that two sexual harassment settlements are not too many to have those products featured on O’Reilly’s show; five harassment settlements are.

The Huffington Post reported that there are still several companies advertising on “O’Reilly” as of Tuesday night. In a statement, Fox News said acknowledged that it was moving ads of companies that had “concerns” about “O’Reilly” to other shows on the channel. It recently renewed its contract with O’Reilly, the Wall Street Journal said.

Vocativ has reached out to 25 of the companies reported to have pulled their ads to ask why they chose to pull them now and not when previous reports of settlements surfaced. Thirteen of them have responded so far. Nine companies (Allstate, Ancestry.com, BMW, Constant Contact, Esurance, Lexus, Hyuandai, UNTUCKit, Voya) confirmed they pulled the ads but would not comment further. Three companies (Bayer, Coldwell Banker, H&R Block) said their ads were either bought as a package across the network rather than for a specific show, or that their ads were not intended to run on “O’Reilly” in the first place.

Only one directly addressed the question.

“We always try to consider the facts that are available when serious allegations exist,” said a spokesperson for Ainsworth Pet Nutrition. “We felt that the information available at this time warranted our decision.”

This post was updated at 2:10 p.m. to include responses from several companies.