From 1996 onward until this year, news anchor Bill O’Reilly was one of the biggest names in broadcast news journalism, with the highest-rated news show in the nation — The O’Reilly Factor. On the Fox News channel, he was the network’s top personality until being dismissed in April of this year amid claims of sexual harassment as reported by The New York Times.
At the time of his dismissal, there had been five sexual harassment lawsuits the network settled out of court for a total of $13 million. But of all the suits mentioned in the Times story, all but one of them dated back a decade or more.
Only the most recent case, brought by accuser Perquita Burgess, occurred during a more recent time frame — 2008, to be precise. Burgess, who was an African-American temporary worker, claimed that in her first weeks of work at the television network, O’Reilly called her “hot chocolate,” leered at her breasts and made grunting noises in her direction several times.
After the Times report broke in early April, liberal media watchdog group Media Matters contacted 80 sponsors of O’Reilly’s show and Fox News and threatened it would embarrass them publicly if they did not immediately demand the dismissal of O’Reilly from Fox. Almost 60 of these companies pulled their support for The O’Reilly Factor, and O’Reilly announced he would be taking a two-week vacation from his show.
O’Reilly then grudgingly agreed to sign off on settlements made to these women (including Burgess) without admitting any wrongdoing. O’Reilly said he did this “to protect my family.”
Nevertheless, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, the owners of Fox News, made the decision to terminate O’Reilly’s employment on April 19. The Murdochs did not allow O’Reilly to appear on-air another time and say farewell to his audience. Instead, O’Reilly released a statement to the press, which read,
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. It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.
“The O’Reilly Factor” was quickly renamed “The Factor” and aired for three more episodes. Pictures and references to O’Reilly on the Fox News website and in ads were removed. Fox News host Tucker Carlson took over O’Reilly’s time slot and has occupied it ever since. As for O’Reilly, he launched his own podcast program called “No Spin News” shortly after his departure and began appearing as a regular guest on host Glenn Beck’s radio program.
In the meantime, new information has come out that O’Reilly’s accuser Perquita Burgess was arrested in 2015 by Detroit Police for making a false allegation of a crime. A police report from February 11, 2015 says that Burgess called 911 to allege that her boyfriend had hit her in her face with a gun. When officers came to the home where her boyfriend was living, Burgess appeared to be drunk. The arresting officer asked Burgess where the gun was that she’d mentioned on the phone call, and Burgess replied that there was no gun and that she had not been assaulted. Her boyfriend told police she’d threatened him with making a false report to them.
Burgess was arrested for violating an order of protection and making a false felony report. Her attorney, Lisa Bloom, stated that Burgess “believes the charges were based on a misunderstanding and were not pursued by police or prosecutors.”
Social media records also show that on November 24, 2012, Burgess tweeted that “…up until 10 years ago, [actor] Laurence Fishburne could get every ounce of my hot chocolate.” It was also confirmed that Burgess referred to herself using derogatory terms such as “b*tch” and the “N” word.
For his part, O’Reilly claimed, “I had no idea who this woman was… so when [the Times report] came out, it was stunning… The press just printed everything she said. She’s on ‘The View,’ and nobody’s even checking her out? I mean, come on. This is why people use the term ‘witch hunt.'”
O’Reilly insisted that there was “not one shred of evidence to back any of [the Times’] accusations.” O’Reilly also claimed that in his 42-year career at 12 different news organizations, there was never a single human resources complaint made against him.
He insisted that Fox’s move to get him off the air had been orchestrated, calling it “a well-organized political hit, very well-funded.” He also claimed to have additional information that would be released that would have a bearing on the case. “We have evidence, I can tell you, that is shocking. Physical evidence that will come out that is shocking. I’ve seen it. So this [report about Burgess] is the first,” he promised. “There will be others.”
On September 26, O’Reilly reappeared on Fox News on Sean Hannity’s program as a guest. “I’m here. I’m alive,” he told Hannity and his audience. He made a gesture familiar from his old show of pointing at the camera and saying, “The spin stops here.” The two then discussed the ongoing protests within the NFL over the national anthem. “These players are being used,” claimed O’Reilly. “The far Left wants to drive a narrative that the U.S. is an evil country.”
O’Reilly reflected on his ouster and blamed “big money” that had been used to target his advertisers and that many mainstream news organizations were now attacking President Donald Trump. He praised Hannity for withstanding a similar advertiser boycott in May. “I have to give you credit,” he told Hannity. “You fought back when they came after you last spring. I didn’t, and I should have.”
Hannity asked O’Reilly if he missed Fox. “I did 20 years and six months here,” the former anchor stated. “This was far and away the best job.” Hannity asked O’Reilly what he was going to do next. “Who knows what I’m going to do,” answer the former host. “I don’t know.”