Tuesday morning, when all that was known publicly was that Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai had pulled their ads from “The O’Reilly Factor,” I spoke to a high ranking executive at a top media agency who asked me not to use his or her name. “The ad pullout on this is going to snowball,” the executive said. “O’Reilly could be in real trouble on this. I don’t think marketers are going to take this lightly.”
By Tuesday night media outlets were reporting 22 advertisers had pulled out of O’Reilly’s show. According to various reports those companies were Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Allstate, Bayer, BMW, Constant Contact, Coldwell Banker, Credit Karma, Esurance, GlaxoSmithKline, Hyundai, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, MileIQ, Mitsubishi Motors, Orkin, Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, Society for Human Resources Management, T. Rowe Price, TrueCar, UNTUCKit, Wayfair, and The Wonderful Company.
I’ve been a regular viewer of “The O’Reilly Factor” for a number of months now, but I found watching Tuesday’s show was surreal.
“Caution! You are about to enter the no-spin zone,” O’Reilly intoned, giving his trademark opening. “The ‘Factor’ begins right now. Hi. I’m Bill O’Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight.
“The Trump surveillance story explodes. That is the subject of tonight’s talking points memo.
“We will give you just the facts. No speculation, no hysteria.”
“… Multiple sources tell Fox News that Susan Rice, former national security adviser under then-president Barack Obama, requested to unmask the names of Trump officials caught up in surveillance.
“Apparently Ms. Rice was doing this for more than a year leading up to the November election.
“That is very troubling, and, if it can be proven, Susan Rice is in major trouble.
“Also, because the national security adviser was so close to president Obama, he will have to answer questions as well.
“So you can see that an enormous story is developing. To be fair to Ms. Rice, and we do want to do that, she denies all wrong-doing and should be given the presumption of innocence, because that’s the American way.”
O’Reilly then shows a video clip of Susan Rice talking Tuesday on MSNBC. In response to a reporters question, in the clip Rice says “I leaked nothing to nobody.”
O’Reilly then says, “‘Nothing to nobody’ should be ‘nothing to anyone.’ Now, here’s my question. If Susan Rice did surveil the Trump people – big if – for a year, what was her motive? Why did she do it?…”
“The key question – to this big story – is motivation….”
O’Reilly then brought in a Fox News reporter and asked her if he’d left anything out.
If O’Reilly was introducing me instead, I would have said, “Really Bill? It seems to me that the story that’s about to explode is the one that’s all over the news — print, online and on TV. That you and the company, going back to 2002, have paid out $13 million to five women who claimed you harassed them, sexually and otherwise.
“That’s of far greater relevance to your viewers, Bill. According to the EEOC, a few years ago they claimed to ‘have heard testimony that one in four women face harassment in the workplace, and many are loath to report it.’
“The enormous story that’s developing is that advertisers are leaving your show in droves. And that means YOU could be in serious trouble. According to ABC News, Bill, Allstate ‘said that the accusations go against its corporate values. “Inclusivity and support for women are important Allstate values. We are concerned about the issues surrounding the program and we have suspended our advertising.”’
“T. Rowe Price said in a statement, ‘We regularly evaluate our media buys to ensure alignment with our corporate values, and in light of the recent allegations we have decided to pull our upcoming ads from “The O’Reilly Factor.”’
“Like Allstate, Bayer also specifically cited its commitment to women. ‘Bayer supports a safe, respectful and non-abusive environment for women and we have reached out to Fox to voice our concerns regarding this matter,’ the pharmaceutical company said in a statement.”
“CNN got reactions from other advertisers:
“Ainsworth Pet Nutrition: ‘We removed our advertising from the program because of these recent and disturbing allegations.’
“Constant Contact: ‘Based on the recent allegations and our strong commitment to inclusion, respect and tolerance in the workplace, we have decided to pull Constant Contact’s ads from The O’Reilly Factor.’
“Credit Karma: ‘In light of the recent concerning allegations, we will not be advertising on this show and have asked for our ads to be removed.’
“UNTUCKit: ‘As a company in which more than 2/3rd of our employees are women, we take sexual harassment claims very seriously. Moreover, it is important our corporate partners reflect the same principles of inclusivity and equality upon which we have built our brand. In light of the disturbing allegations, we instructed our media buyer this morning to reallocate our ad dollars to other shows effective immediately. We will continue to closely monitor the situation but believe this is the right decision at this time.’”
“Furthermore, Bill, the statement you made to the New York Times about the harassment charges and payouts didn’t make sense to me. You said:
“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.
“But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.
“The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.”
“Bill, it seems to me that the best way to show your kids how to handle a situation where you are being unjustly accused of something is to fight the charges relentlessly.”
Equally disconcerting was the statement from Fox News’ ownership to the Times:
“‘21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously. Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”
What BS. As conservative columnist Michael Gerson of the Washington Post so eloquently put it in a column he wrote on Tuesday, “If the accusations [against O’Reilly and former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes] of dozens of women over two decades are correct — and it is hard to dismiss the women, as the accused have done, as unbalanced, dishonest or disgruntled — then Fox News is the focus of hypocrisy in the modern world. While preaching traditional values, it has operated, according to former Fox anchor Andrea Tantaros, “like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.”
I have written before that the Murdochs need to clean up this mess at Fox News in a serious manner, which they have not done. It begins with honesty about what’s been going on, and actually using the words “sexual harassment.”
Fox News has some excellent talent, and yes, some of them are even men, such as Shep Smith and Chris Wallace. Why not hire Peggy Noonan to clean up the place. Give her carte blanche to do what needs to be done.