‘Sorry’ from Fox unlikely
Amid snowballing allegations of serial nastiness in his dealings with grossed-out women, ex-superstar Bill O’Reilly is officially out at Fox News Channel.
A few elements are missing, however, from Wednesday’s bland corporate statement that the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, and O’Reilly have agreed to part ways.
For one thing, some choice adjectives to describe O’Reilly’s reported behavior might have been in order. “Disgusting,” “intolerable” and “porcine” come to mind, although the latter might be an unfair slam on innocent swine.
For another, there’s the question of how long it took the company to conduct what it calls a “thorough” review of the allegations. Women have been charging O’Reilly with work- BILL O'REILLY
place bullying and sexual harassment since 2002. It’s hard to believe that even the most zealous investigation took 15 years to carry out.
Aw, well, I’m just funnin’ with y’all. We all know it wasn’t the voices of the injured and vilified women tormented by O’Reilly over the years that brought this about. It was the recent mass exodus of nervous advertisers from his top-rated cable news show. It was the dollars, the simoleons, the spondulix that mattered here.
In other words, cause and effect here were indirect, at best.
But whatever. In the end, the primary lever was an April 1 report in The New York Times (mainstream journalism, how I love thee). The story put together old allegations and new information showing that O’Reilly and Fox ponied up at least $13 million over the years to pay off women who complained that O’Reilly groped, harassed, belittled, propositioned, made lewd remarks to, discussed sex acts with, placed dirty-minded masturbatory phone calls to and/or threatened them. Since that story ran, two more women have levied similar accusations.
Too, too much
He will not starve. O’Reilly reportedly walks away from his job with a hefty $25 million severance check, reports said Thursday.
Still, O’Reilly had a lot to lose, and the only wonder here is that he didn’t lose it sooner. A mediocre journalist who became a megawatt television star through his nightly muleflogging of “political correctness,” details of his creepy behavior have been out there for the better part of two decades.
Meticulous accounts that he repeatedly tried to initiate phone sex with a female associate producer to whom this was not just unwelcome but repulsive made tabloid headlines in 2004. Yuck.
O’Reilly’s embarrassing termination, of course, comes hard on the heels of the network’s super-scandal involving its powerful co-founder and former CEO Roger Ailes. He was forced out last summer amid similar allegations of sexual harassment and coercion by more than a half-dozen women employed by Fox.
Some see toppling of these two media giants as a turning point.
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan quoted media executive Vivian Schiller: “We found out, in all of this, that if you speak up, there will be action, and that there’s strength in numbers.”
I hope that’s true but can’t help wondering if the celebratory sentiment is a little premature. These women were publicly castigated as liars and extortionists, by O’Reilly himself and by his ardent supporters.
In March, O’Reilly served up his own kids to explain the payoffs: “I have to put to rest any controversies to spare my children,” he said. His children.
Yes, women should speak up. And yes, there is strength in numbers.
But how many are too embarrassed, too cowed by the influence wielded by powerful men and their lawyers, too fearful (with good reason) of being cheated out of career opportunities or even losing their jobs, too reluctant to be gaslit as “crazy” and “head cases” if they speak up?
Let’s be clear: This isn’t about fun-loving naughty-boy office antics. It’s about men leveraging their powerful positions to try to force themselves on unwilling women who feel trapped in no-win situations.
And there are still plenty of women out there in all walks of life who don’t see speaking up as an option, who are stuck being heartsick with the ugliness and unfairness of it all.
So, yes, I would like to have seen a fuller statement from the Fox Big Dogs, although it’s probably not realistic to expect this.
Something along the lines of: “We will never again buy somebody who is legitimately suspected of disgusting workplace behavior out of trouble, no matter how lucrative that person is to the bottom line.”
Or even this: “We’re sorry. We should have been listening to you all along. We should have been taking you seriously from Day One. “It will never happen again.” That would be real progress. But we’re not there yet.