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20 April 2017, 06:22 | Patty Hardy
There was no immediate response from Bill O'Reilly's bosses Wednesday to escalating reports that the Fox News Channel personality will lose his job following accusations he had harassed women.
O'Reilly had ruled the "no spin zone" on television with a quick smile and an even quicker temper.
And he keeps echoing in the broader media landscape.
Up to four million viewers watched "The O'Reilly Factor" each evening, making it the most-watched cable TV program in 2016 and generating $446 million in ad revenues for Fox between 2014 and a year ago, according to a study carried out by Kantar Media.
"What Rush Limbaugh was to talk radio, Bill O'Reilly has been to conservative television", said Mark Feldstein, communication professor at the University of Maryland. O'Reilly has said he made settlements to protect his children.
"He helped shape the kind of very polarized discourse that has come to define politics over the past few years in America", Hollihan said.
Before the advertising boycott, there was the prospect of even more: his audience was larger in the first three months of 2017 than it has ever been.
The stunning downfall of O'Reilly comes a little over two weeks after The New York Times reported that both the conservative host and Fox have paid out millions in hush money to at least five women that accused O'Reilly of sexually harassing them. It also prompted dozens of companies to drop advertisements on "The O'Reilly Factor", long the most watched show on cable news.
NY magazine reported Wednesday, based on unnamed sources, that Rupert Murdoch and sons James and Lachlan, who run Fox parent 21st Century Fox, had decided that O'Reilly was out and executives were planning the exit.
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"I understand how hard this has been for many of you", Rupert Murdoch said in a memo to Fox staff.
With a profit center gone, 21st Century Fox stock fell nearly 1 percent Wednesday in heavy trading.
Since April 11, the host has been on a vacation in Italy, where he shook Pope Francis' hand on Wednesday.
"It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims", O'Reilly said in a statement.
The network's most popular personality was sacked after a New York Time report earlier this month that said five women had been paid $13 million in settlements after they alleged sexual harassment and mistreatment. 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. He pushed a populist, conservative-leaning point of view, and was quick to shout down those who disagreed with him.
The National Geographic channel has aired a series of adaptations of O'Reilly books, including "Killing Reagan" and "Killing Kennedy". "No more silencing women!"
By that time, the news had already generated considerable coverage on Fox's primary cable news competitors, CNN and MSNBC.
"I'm not sure I see much evidence of that; otherwise, Judy Woodruff would be off the charts", he said, referring to the anchor of "PBS NewsHour".
The departed O'Reilly's "The Factor" will continue through this week with Dana Perino hosting Wednesday and Thursday night, and Greg Gutfield on Friday.
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