Friday, April 7, 2017

Advertisers bowing out after Bill O'Reilly's multiple sexual harassment settlements are exposed

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15:  Bill O'Reilly, host of FOX's "The O'Reilly Factor" at FOX Studios on December 15, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
After the New York Times reported on five separate sexual harassment and misconduct settlements against Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, the network's most profitable loudmouth may be in serious trouble. No, not from his network—even after the firing of Roger Ailes for a pattern of sexual harassment of female Fox employees, the news network heads continue to look the other way when it comes to their cornerstone shouter. And certainly not from conservatives, whether they be of the "family values" sort or anyone else; Donald Trump, who himself bragged of sexual assaults when he thought the microphones weren't turned on, took time out of his day to defend his fellow cretin.

But the exodus of top-brand advertisers from the O'Reilly stable is quickly growing, as companies from Lexus to BMW to Allstate seek to distance themselves from a man whose contemptuous treatment of women may sully their own public image.
In total, at least 24 advertisers have so far withdrawn support. Fox News said in a statement Tuesday that it values its ad partners and was "working with them to address their current concerns about the O'Reilly Factor. At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs."
O'Reilly has denied the claims have merit — but that hasn't stopped the sponsor pullback. The show draws 4 million viewers nightly and generated $446 million in advertising from 2014 to 2016, according to research firm Kantar Media.
O'Reilly has indeed denied the claims have merit, but unfortunately for him at least two women recorded his behavior. He's also gone to great lengths to smear the women who filed lawsuits against him. For Fox News, the risk of alienating half their prospective customers with any given host is common nightly territory, but American companies aren't keen on tying themselves to a host with a pattern of sexual harassment, temper tantrums and vengeful retaliation.

As the list of advertisers now wanting nothing to do with O'Reilly hits two dozen, it puts pressure on the advertisers who remain. They cannot pretend to know nothing of the controversy; the news of other advertisers leaving is well-covered. If Allstate is bowing out, will Geico remain? Why on earth is Subaru still supporting the sexual harasser, when other manufacturers have gone the other direction?

The Times piece amply demonstrated a long-standing pattern of sexual harassment of women from the Fox News host, one ignored by the network when it was headed by a man who was later fired for sexual harassment himself. Now that it's out in the open his advertisers have to decide, as they do when plotting relationships with every other individual in the public sphere, whether his behaviors are ones they want to put the reputation of their own brands behind.

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