Now That He’s Out at Fox News—What Lies Ahead for Bill O’Reilly?
When “vacationing” Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly briefly shook hands with Pope Francis in Rome on the morning of April 19, he must have known that only divine intervention could save his job. It was not forthcoming. A short while later, Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox announced it had parted ways with its biggest-name star.
O’Reilly, the dominant face of Fox News Channel for 20 years, has now joined its chief architect, Roger Ailes, as having been dismissed after multiple allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. This is despite the presidential precedent of Fox News’ most famous and powerful audience member, Viewer-in-Chief Donald Trump, weathering similar charges of his own, to ascend successfully to the White House.
One of Ailes’s accusers was the network’s former anchor Megyn Kelly, who revealed her claims in her bestselling book. Ironically, had she stayed at Fox News, she would now occupy the most high-profile timeslot and own the network, figuratively, if not close to literally.
So what lies ahead for O’Reilly, the longtime master of the bully pulpit?
He still has his historical book publishing empire, with titles ranging from Killing Lincoln to Killing Kennedy. His latest best-seller, Old School, is billed as a defense of traditional values and gives advice on how men should treat women respectfully. It went on sale as The New York Times revealed he had settled lawsuits with five women and sold 67,500 copies in its first week.
Then, after a cooling-down period, there may be an opportunity for O’Reilly to return to TV. No one is likely to step forward immediately, but make no mistake that there are cable networks both big and small who covet O’Reilly’s large and steadfastly loyal audience.
Neither O’Reilly nor Fox News should be counted out yet. The network O’Reilly helped build will go on without him—and vice versa.
David Bianculli is a TV critic and historian and a TV and film professor at Rowan University. He appears on NPR’s Fresh Air With Terry Gross.