V viewers in the United Kingdom will likely not miss watching Fox News, as the network’s parent company 21st Century Fox announced on Tuesday that the company would pull the channel amid low ratings.
“Fox News is focused on the U.S. market and designed for a U.S. audience and, accordingly, it averages only a few thousand viewers across the day in the U.K.,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement provided to CNN. “We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the U.K.”
While 21st Century Fox said its decision was based on the channel’s inability to attract a considerable audience, critics say it’s actually an attempt to smooth over the media giant’s bid to take over European satellite company Sky. (21st Century Fox owns a controlling stake in Sky PLC, the parent company of the London-headquartered network.)
HuffPost UK reports that if the takeover is successful, it would give Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch access to Sky’s 22 million customers in Europe. This audience would be in addition to those of the three U.K. newspapers ― The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times ― that the media mogul already owns.
In June, officials delayed Murdoch’s attempted takeover of the 61 percent of Sky that his family does not currently own. British authorities asked regulators to review the deal to see if the takeover would give the family too much control over the country’s media landscape.
Subscribe to The Morning Email
Wake up to the day’s most important news.
Sky ceased broadcasting Fox News on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Republican lawmakers on Thursday swiftly rebuked President Donald Trump for crudely claiming that “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a face-lift,” saying such tweets are beneath the office of the president.
In a two-part tweet, Trump said he “heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore).” He then went on to hit Brzezinski: “how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came … to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
The messages, some of the most graphic and personal sense Trump became president, were condemned by Republicans who are struggling to push Trump’s legislative agenda forward while the White House is consumed by the Russia probes and self-inflicted dramas.
“Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday during his weekly press conference, adding, “Look, what we’re trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility of the debate, and this obviously doesn’t help do that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went further, tweeting, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”
Graham later told POLITICO that Trump’s insult was “highly inappropriate” regardless of any impact it might have on distracting from the GOP agenda. Asked if the president should apologize, Graham said, “I would, if I were” Trump.
The tweets echo some of Trump’s attacks from the campaign trail, during which he went after then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly after the first debate by saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
But the messages take on a new tenor now that Trump is in the Oval Office, and is trying to pull off big legislative lifts — including a Obamacare repeal bill and tax reform package — that require message discipline.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly defended the tweets, explaining the president fights back when he feels the criticism toward him is unwarranted.
“Look, I don’t think that the president’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back,” Sanders told Fox News on Thursday morning. “There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him but to frankly everyone around him. … This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media or liberal elites in Hollywood or anywhere else.”
Sanders said she personally has been attacked on “Morning Joe” on matters that have nothing to do with her beliefs, ideology or policy. “I have seen far worse things [than the tweets] come out of that show,” she said.
The first lady’s office responded to the president’s tweet through a spokeswoman who reiterated what Melania Trump said in an April 2016 speech.
“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, said in a statement.
But there’s evidence that the public is frustrated with the president’s Twitter use. More than 6-in-10 registered voters say Trump should stop tweeting, including 49 percent of Republicans, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted ahead of Trump’s latest attack and released Thursday.
And some Republicans in Congress said Trump crossed a line with his vulgar message.
Following a hearing on U.S. Capitol Police, Republican Sen. James Lankford said in a statement that the president “should model civility, honor, and respect in our political rhetoric. The President’s tweets today don’t help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue.”
Unlike other Republicans who in the past have vocalized their opposition to Trump’s actions, Lankford isn’t a notably frequent Trump critic.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who is a frequent critic, tweeted: “Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed, telling reporters that what Trump tweeted was “so blatantly sexist” and “really saddens me because it is so beneath the dignity of the president of the United States to engage in such behavior.”
She also blasted her Republican colleagues who haven’t condemned the president’s rhetoric. “The Republicans, they can tolerate almost anything — a candidate beating up a reporter and then cheering him on as he arrives in Congress, the tweets of the president of the United States,” she said at her weekly news conference. “They set a low standard for public officials in terms of their demeanor.”
Trump’s tweet dominated the conversation on a day when the House was scheduled to vote on two immigration bills, the Senate was focused on getting its Obamacare repeal legislation back on track, and part of the administration’s travel ban was set to be enforced Thursday evening. The White House had also designated this “energy week,” with Trump scheduled to deliver remarks at an energy event at the Energy Department.
Republicans expressed frustration that the president’s tweets do nothing to further the GOP agenda.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is among the Republican holdouts on the health care bill, tweeted: “This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov’t and media. We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another skeptic of the GOP health bill, tweeted, “Stop it! The Presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down.”
Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham sent out a tweet chastising the White House’s message discipline: “Today ALL comms coming out of WH shd be focused on #KatesLaw and #NoSanctuaryforCriminalsAct — not cable TV hosts.”
GOP strategist Rick Tyler, a former communications aide to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s White House bid, told POLITICO that Trump’s tweets have “zero benefit” and criticized the administration’s defense of them as “childish.”
“Republicans will arrive at the 2018 elections with absolutely no accomplishments and nothing to run on,” Tyler said. “In order to effect large-scale public policy change through legislation, you must have a communications strategy to convince the country that the direction you’re going is somewhere they’d like to go.”
While Trump’s attack on Thursday morning provoked a big response, the “Morning Joe” hosts have a notorious love-hate relationship with the president. During the 2016 campaign, Trump was a frequent call-in guest to the show and as recently as March retained Joe Scarborough’s advice on matters before addressing Congress. But the MSNBC show has also faced criticism for being too cozy with the administration.
In a Vanity Fair report from May on the co-hosts’ recent engagement, the couple acknowledged meeting with the president more than a week after his inauguration, where Trump reportedly suggested they have their wedding at Mar-a-Lago or the White House. According to Scarborough, Trump even suggested he could be the one to marry them.
Scarborough and Brzezinski have since become increasingly critical of the president, and Trump has repeatedly attacked them on Twitter, but Thursday’s messages marked a new low.
Brzezinski responded to Trump shortly after his tweets on Thursday with her own post of a Cheerios box detailing a child and the slogan “Made For Little Hands” — a seemingly pointed reference to the campaign trail during which Trump’s hand size was often targeted.
MSNBC, meanwhile, was direct and unsparing in its criticism.
“It’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job,” an MSNBC spokesperson said, echoing a similar sentiment from the organization’s spokesman Mark Kornblau, who tweeted that he “never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.’”
It was not immediately clear what specific comments set off the Twitter attacks this morning, but Brzezinski did hit the president this morning on “lying … and destroying the country.”
“Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself, lying every day and destroying the country,” Brzezinski said in reference to a Washington Post report that alleges a fabricated Time magazine cover photo featuring Trump is hanging in at least five of his golf clubs.
Also, on Tuesday’s episode of “Morning Joe,” Brzezinski and Scarborough went back and forth on Trump’s hand size and his onslaught of media-focused tweets of late.
“That’s a very small person,” Brzezinski said.
“I work in cable news and I can tell you that’s sad, pathetic. Think bigger,” Scarborough countered, adding that while the “worst health care strategy ever” rages, Trump’s talking about the media.
“Keep on being small,” Brzezinski said.
“Tiny. That’s the word,” Scarborough corrected.
On the campaign trail, the president was often criticized for his treatment of women, most notably after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump can be heard bragging about sexually assaulting women.
And in a bizarre moment on Tuesday, while on the phone with Ireland’s new prime minister, Trump called forward an Irish journalist to comment on her smile.
Despite the furor around his tweets on Thursday, Trump did get some support outside of the White House.Fox News primetime host and frequent Trump defender Sean Hannity tweeted various links to “Morning Joe”-related coverage. “Maybe liberal Joe should stop calling the @POTUS a schmuck, a liar, a thug and mentally unhinged. Were they kissing @POTUS ass at xmas? Yes,” he tweeted.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) also appeared to defend the president, noting that he’s dealing with an adversarial news media.
“The media is salting him every day,” Shelby said. “I guess he’s fighting back.”
Other lawmakers, however, said they were trying to tune it out.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he didn’t want to talk about the president’s tweets because he’s trying to “stay positive.”
“If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all,” Johnson said.
“The American people need us to be focused on health care and tax reform, not Twitter fights and cable news,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said on Twitter.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2016, summarized Trump’s comments in three words: “Inappropriate. Undignified. Unpresidential.”
Thursday morning’s tweet storm also fits into Trump’s recently stepped-up crusade against the media in which he has targeted other outlets that he believes are publishing unfair coverage of his administration.
Trump attacked The Washington Post on Wednesday, complaining that the “fake news” newspaper was protecting Amazon from tax liabilities with its coverage.
Representatives for Brzezinski and Scarborough did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hadas Gold, Elana Schor, Kyle Cheney, Austin Wright, Heather Caygle and Diamond Naga Siu contributed to this report.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer ducked a series of questions on Tuesday about President Donald Trump’s promotion of a Fox News story based on a single anonymous source just days after blasting such stories as “made up.”
The Monday Fox News report that Trump retweeted lays blame on the Russians, rather than Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Kushner, for discussing the possibility of a communications back channel between the Trump administration and Moscow. The Fox report cited “a source familiar with the matter.”
That report followed a Friday report in The Washington Post that said Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak told Moscow that Kushner was the one who wanted a secret communications channel between the Trump team and the Kremlin. The Post’s story cited US officials who had been briefed on intelligence reports.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that “whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names … it is very possibly that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers.”
Both the Post and Fox relied on anonymous sources for their stories. Trump tried discrediting such sourcing in a series of Sunday-morning tweets, but retweeted the Fox News story anyway on Tuesday.
Spicer said during Tuesday’s press briefing — his first time back at the podium in weeks — that questions from a Post reporter about what Trump knew of the back channel discussion “assumes a lot,” adding that what the “question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources that are so far being leaked out.”
“Your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed,” he said.
Another reporter asked if Trump’s retweet of the Fox News story confirmed any of the facts that Spicer said had not been confirmed. The reporter then listed some of the main points from the Fox News story.
“Was the president not confirming that there was an effort in the facts that I just said?” she asked. “He retweeted that.”
“I think what I just said speaks for itself,” Spicer responded.
The reporter noted that Spicer was attempting to discredited the Post’s anonymous sources while Trump was at the same time promoting a Fox story based off a single anonymous source.
“Why are those sources, or this source rather, that they used, more credible than the ones in the Washington Post article?” she asked.
Spicer dodged the question and pivoted to talking about a statement provided by Kushner’s attorney that he had already referenced in the briefing and then mentioning the “dossier,” a document prepared by an ex-British spy that contained unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia.
“So again, I’m not going to get into confirming stuff,” Spicer said. “There is an ongoing investigation.”
The reports about the December meeting between Russians and Trump officials in Trump Tower, which had already been under scrutiny from investigators, have thrust Kushner into the center of the ongoing Russia investigations. The FBI is investigating whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Earlier this month, Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who was overseeing that investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.
Sessions attributed the oversight to advice he received from an FBI employee who helped him fill out the form.
If Trump truly believes that this whole thing is a made-up story, then he should be unrelentingly supportive of the Mueller investigation
(CNN) Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to properly disclose his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a security clearance application, CNN reported on Wednesday night.
Sessions attributed the oversight to advice he received from an FBI employee who helped him fill out the form. The FBI employee told Sessions he didn’t need to note every interaction — especially passing ones — with foreign officials. So, Sessions didn’t.
This is not an uncommon occurrence. Phil Mudd, who spent time at the CIA and the FBI and now works as a counter-terrorism analyst for CNN, acknowledged Thursday morning on “New Day” that he, too, didn’t list every foreign official he came into contact with on his security clearance forms — comparing it to going 62 in an area where the speed limit is 55.
The problem here for Sessions — and the Trump administration more broadly — is that the meetings the Attorney General failed to disclose are with the Russian ambassador. Not the ambassador to France or England or literally any other place in the world.
And that means the omissions matter. Because they land amid a federal investigation now being run by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. And two congressional investigations into the matter. And the firing of former national security adviser Michael Flynn due to his misleading comments about his own conversations with Kislyak. And the Russia ties of former Trump advisers Paul Manafort and Carter Page. And Sessions’ own recusal from the federal investigation due to his meetings with Kislyak. And the reports that Trump asked then FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn and the Russians during a Feb. 14 meeting.
You get the idea. There’s just a massive amount of smoke here. Is it possible that the smoke isn’t being produced by a fire, as Trump insists? Sure. But the growing amount of smoke belies Trump’s repeated insistence that the investigation is simply “fake news” or a “witch hunt.”
The public disagrees with Trump on this, too. In a new Fox News national poll, more than six in ten (61%) of people said they were concerned with reports of “Russian meddling in U.S. affairs,” as opposed to just 38% who said they weren’t concerned. Almost 7 in 10 (68%) approved of the appointment of a special counsel to look into Russia’s meddling and possible collusion with elements of the Trump campaign. People were split on whether they thought evidence would be found proving the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians; 43 percent said they expected that to happen while 45 percent said they didn’t.
If Trump truly believes that this whole thing is a made-up story, then he should be unrelentingly supportive of the Mueller investigation. Because Mueller is the only person at this point who can clear away all the smoke and show that there is no fire. (Not even Trump can do that at this point — even if he wanted to. The story has gotten totally beyond his control.)
And yet, Trump continues to work to undermine Mueller and his findings. Which means that every development like this latest one with Sessions will just add more smoke to the story. At this point, there’s so much smoke surrounding Trump and Russia, it’s getting very hard to see.
DENVER — A man without a medical license was arrested after allegedly using an Army surgical kit to remove the testicles of a transgender woman at her apartment, the Denver Police Department said.
James Pennington, 57 of Denver, is alleged to have removed the testicles and sutured the opening while the woman’s wife watched the 90-minute procedure on Wednesday, May 17th, according to a probable cause statement.
RELATED: Probable cause statement
The surgical kit included a scalpel, Iidocaine, medical dressings and other medical equipment.
Pennington told the victim if any “complications” developed to call 911, according to the statement.
The wife called 911 about 2 p.m. after blood was coming from the incision.
Paramedics said the testicles could not be reattached because of the time between the procedure and the call to 911, police said.
A doctor with Medical Center of Aurora said the victim suffered serious bodily injury and “risk of permanent disfigurement,” according to the statement.
Pennington was interviewed by police on Thursday and, according to the probable cause statement, “confessed to completing this surgical procedure without medical license.”
Pennington was arrested for investigation of first-degree aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. He is being held without bond.
The Denver District Attorney’s Office will make the final determination if charges will be filed.
July 28, 2016: Pro-Bernie Sanders protesters demonstrate outside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (Fox News)
The 2016 presidential campaign is still being litigated – literally.
As Trump administration controversies command media attention, a little-noticed set of lawsuits against the Democratic Party continues to play out in the courts – including one claiming coordination with the Clinton campaign against Bernie Sanders amounted to election fraud.
The case being heard in a Florida courtroom dates back to last summer, when the Democrats were thrown into turmoil following the leak of documents that appeared to show some DNC officials sought to undermine Sanders in the party primary. Jared Beck, a Harvard law expert, shortly afterward filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of residents of 45 states against the DNC and former chairwomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The DNC has been trying for months to have the case dismissed, and scored a temporary victory last year when it was decided the plaintiffs had improperly filed paperwork.
Beck has been fighting the DNC every step of the way, and is demanding the party repay individuals and Sanders supporters for contributions made during the election, alleging misappropriation of funds.
“If we can’t trust the two political parties to run an election in a fair manner, who can we trust?” Beck told Fox News.
During the most recent hearing on April 25 before a judge in the southern district of Florida, the DNC made a strictly legal argument – one that surely would have rankled Sanders supporters.
Bruce Spiva, a lawyer for the DNC, argued in its motion to dismiss that the party holds the right to select its candidate any way it chooses and is not bound by pledges of fairness.
“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.’ That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right,” Spiva argued.
Although the Article 5, Section 4 of the Democratic Party charter stipulates that it will function with total neutrality during Democratic primaries, the DNC lawyer argued the promise was non-binding.
“And there’s no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There’s no contractual obligation here,” he said.
“This lawsuit has nothing to do with politics or political disagreements within the DNC. This case should concern everyone because it goes to the heart of the country’s democratic institutions,” Beck told Fox News.
A victory by Beck could have a profound impact on how the Democratic Party conducts business in 2020 and beyond. However, those familiar with election law say he faces an uphill climb.
“I don’t think it is going to amount to much,” said Michael Toner, a lawyer with the Wiley-Rein and a former legal counsel for the Republican National Committee.
“Courts don’t typically get in the middle of intraparty disputes and while I am sure the DNC does not appreciate having to fight this lawsuit, judges are very reluctant to exercise their jurisdiction over politics,” Toner said.
The DNC attorneys also contend the suit is meritless, arguing most Sanders donors do not even support the lawsuit.
“The vast majority of whom almost certainly do not share Plaintiffs’ political views—have no realistic means of disassociating from this action, brought in their name against the political party they likely support,” the DNC lawyers wrote in their motion.
Toner said the danger to the DNC would come if the lawsuit entered the discovery phase, which is why an affiliated case alleging the DNC failed to pay overtime wages poses a potentially greater threat.
The DNC this week filed a motion to dismiss in the second class-action lawsuit, which alleged workers at the Democratic National Convention and through the election were not paid a minimum wage, while others were refused overtime compensation guaranteed by federal and state law.
The 2016 Democratic platform characterized the current federal minimum of $7.25 per hour as “a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty.”
The suit also names the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and others involved in the party’s 2016 national convention in the lawsuit. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party did not return calls for comment.
“While the DNC was not the employer in this case, the DNC follows all employment and wage laws to make sure that everyone who works a full time job receives a fair wage,” DNC spokesman Michael Tyler said in a statement to Fox News.
Although the individuals participated in party-building activities, such as voter registration, soliciting volunteers and knocking on doors, the national party argues they were not officially DNC staff.
Justin Swidler, the lawyer behind the suit, told Fox News, “We believe in fair pay for fair work. The lawsuit seeks only that. We believe these ideals are consistent with the platform of the DNC.”
According to individuals familiar with the case, the DNC filed another motion to dismiss this week, but neither side anticipates a prompt resolution of the case given the court’s full docket.
A television ad in support of a bill to reduce marijuana penalties in Texas will begin airing Friday, just days before the state House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure. It can be viewed here.
The 30-second spot features Nick Novello, an active duty police officer and 23-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, and Heather Jackson of Houston, an ovarian cancer survivor who was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana in El Paso in 2007.
“Arresting people for marijuana possession does not make our communities any safer,” Novello says in the ad. “It’s a terrible waste of police resources.”
Jackson notes that she was found with less than one gram of marijuana and spent a total of four days in jail. She was initially jailed for two days. She was forced to spend an additional two days in jail because she violated the terms of her probation by traveling from El Paso to Houston for treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“It has affected so many different things in my life,” Jackson says in the ad. She now has a criminal record that has prevented her from getting a teaching job.
The ad concludes by urging viewers to tell their legislators to support HB 81, a bipartisan bill that would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. A fourth offense would result in a misdemeanor punishable by only a fine. The measure passed out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee last month and is expected to receive a full vote in the House next week.
The ad is scheduled to air through Monday in Austin and through the weekend in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC.
Scott’s shooting death lead to several days of protesting and marches in the City of Charlotte.
Talking with the family’s attorney Charles Monnett, they don’t agree with this ruling.
“Mrs. Scott is extremely disappointed by the decision. She feels strongly that some sort of disciplinary action was appopriate,” said Monnett.
Scott’s lawyer refers back to CMPD’s policy which states an officer isn’t allowed to use deadly force against a suspect unless there’s aggravated aggression towards that officer — meaning his or life is in imminent danger.
Nikolai Andrushchenko in October 2016. (AP Photo/Denis Usov)
A prominent Russian journalist – who was also a prominent critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin – died Wednesday from injuries sustained during a mysterious attack six weeks ago in St. Petersburg.
Nikolai Andrushchenko’s death was reported by Russian media outlets that cited his lawyer and the editor-in-chief of the Novy Peterburg newspaper. State news agency RIA Novosti reported Andrushchenko, 73, had been in a medically induced coma since the March 9 attack.
Andrushchenko’s attackers have not been identified. The editor of RIA Novosti has linked the assault to articles in the newspaper about corruption in St. Petersburg.
Andrushchenko was a member of the St. Petersburg city council from 1990 until 1993. He was among the founders of Novy Peterburg, where he made a name for himself writing about human rights issues and crime.
He was jailed in 2007 for defamation — but his colleagues said the court was punishing him for its news coverage giving a voice to the opposition, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Bill O’Reilly let go from Fox News Channel amid sexual harassment claims
Bill O’Reilly, longtime host of Fox News’s top-rated show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” will not return to the network. His departure comes after six women alleged he sexually harassed them.(Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Fox News has ended its association with Bill O’Reilly, the combative TV host and commentator who has ruled cable-news ratings for nearly two decades and was the signature figure in the network’s rise as a powerful political player.The conservative-leaning host’s downfall was swift and steep, set in motion less than three weeks ago by revelations of a string of harassment complaints against him. The questions about his conduct represented yet another black eye to Fox, which had dealt with a sexual harassment scandal involving its co-founder and then-chairman Roger Ailes, just last summer.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox, the news channel’s parent company, said in a statement Wednesday.
After Ailes’s departure, Fox and 21st Century Fox — both controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family — had vowed then to clean up an apparent culture of harassment at the news network. Instead, the allegations kept coming — against Ailes, O’Reilly and some of the remaining senior executives that Ailes had hired.
Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News. (Richard Drew/AP)
Fox has also lost popular hosts Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly since the turmoil began last summer. The network, however, continued to roll in record ratings, driven in part by viewer interest in Donald Trump, a longtime friend of Ailes, Murdoch and O’Reilly and a frequent interview guest for years.
The loss of O’Reilly, however, is of a different magnitude: His program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” has been the network’s flagship show for nearly 20 years, and in many ways has embodied its conservative-oriented spirit.
It was just last month that Fox re-signed O’Reilly to a multimillion-dollar, three-year contract, fully aware of the long history of complaints against him.
He still seemed to be at the peak of his popularity and prestige only three weeks ago. His 8 p.m. program, which mixes discussion segments with O’Reilly’s pugnacious commentary, drew an average of 4 million viewers each night during the first three months of the year, the most ever for a cable-news program. His popularity, in turn, helped drive Fox News to record ratings and profits. O’Reilly was also the co-author of two books that were at the top of the bestseller lists in April.
But the fuse was lit for his career detonation when the New York Times disclosed that O’Reilly and Fox had settled a series of harassment complaints lodged against him by women he’d worked with at Fox over the years.
The newspaper found that O’Reilly and Fox had settled five such allegations since 2002, paying out some $13 million in exchange for the women’s silence. Two of the settlements, including one for $9 million in 2004, were widely reported. But the others had been kept secret by O’Reilly, Fox and the women involved.
In addition, a sixth woman, a former “O’Reilly Factor” guest named Wendy Walsh, alleged that O’Reilly had harassed her in 2013. Although Walsh never sued or sought compensation, she spoke against him in public, drawing more negative attention to Fox and O’Reilly over the past few weeks. A seventh, still anonymous woman filed a complaint with the company on Tuesday, alleging that he made disparaging racial and sexual remarks to her while she was employed at Fox in 2008.
O’Reilly has never acknowledged that he harassed anyone. In his only public statement about the matter in early April, he said his fame made him a target of lawsuits and that he settled the harassment claims against him to spare his children negative publicity.
After the revelations, Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, were forced to decide whether the economic and reputational fallout from the O’Reilly scandal was irreversible.
O’Reilly had previously survived several controversies during his 21 years at Fox, including a lurid sexual harassment case in 2004 that was fodder for New York’s tabloid newspapers. He also beat back a wave of headlines in 2015, when reporters examined his claims about his days as a young reporter and found them to be dubious. All the while, O’Reilly’s audience not only stuck with him, but continued to grow.
But this time, the intense media coverage surrounding O’Reilly led to a stampede of advertisers away from O’Reilly’s program, leaving it almost without sponsorship over the past two weeks. Various organizations, including the National Organization for Women, called for O’Reilly’s firing, and intermittent protests began outside Fox News’s headquarters in New York. Morale among employees at the network reportedly was suffering, too.
The Murdochs also had more than just O’Reilly’s TV career to consider: The O’Reilly controversy was casting a shadow over 21st Century’s $14 billion bid to win the British government’s approval to buy Sky TV, the British satellite service. Leaving O’Reilly in place would likely have been a public-relations nightmare for James and Lachlan Murdoch, the sons who head 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent.
The Murdoch family abandoned a 2011 offer for Sky amid another scandal, the phone-hacking conspiracy perpetrated by employees of the Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid in London. A parliamentary panel later declared Rupert and James Murdoch to be “unfit” to run a public company — a description they hoped would not be revived by regulators with the O’Reilly matter hanging over them.
Today’s Headlines newsletter
The day’s most important stories.
In the wake of the Ailes scandal last summer, the Murdoch brothers vowed to clean up a workplace environment that women at Fox had described as hostile under Ailes. In one of their few public statements on the matter, they said at the time, “We continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect.”
But those efforts have seemed unavailing, and at times have even seemed hypocritical. Since the Ailes scandal, the company has continued to employ almost all of the senior managers who were in charge when Ailes was allegedly harassing employees, including Bill Shine, currently Fox’s co-president. Shine was accused of enabling Ailes’s retaliatory efforts against an accuser, Fox contributor Julie Roginsky, in a sexual-harrassment lawsuit Roginsky filed earlier this month.
The external and internal pressure left the Murdochs with a dilemma: Keep the networks’ most valuable asset and hope to ride out the storm around him, or cut him loose and end the drama.
In the end, even an endorsement from President Trump could not save O’Reilly: In an interview with Times reporters on April 5, Trump called O’Reilly “a good person” and said he should not have settled the complaints made against him. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” Trump said.
Fox said that Tucker Carlson, host of a discussion program now airing at 9 p.m., will take over O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. time slot. “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” in turn, will be replaced at 9 p.m. by Fox’s 5 p.m. show, “The Five,” starting on Monday. “The O’Reilly Factor” will continue for the remainder of the week, with guest hosts Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld. Martha MacCallum and Sean Hannity will remain in their current spots at 7 p.m and 10 p.m., respectively, and the 5 p.m. hour will be occupied by a new show, hosted by Eric Bolling, starting May 1.
This blog, trouthtroubles.com is owned, written, and operated by oldpoet56. All articles, posts, and materials found here, except for those that I have pressed here from someone else’s blog for the purpose of showing off their work, are under copyright and this website must be credited if my articles are re-blogged, pressed, or shared.