NEWSFLASH: Advertisers and Advocates Want Fox News to Take Sexual Harassment Seriously

Fox News is finding itself in hot water after a report revealed that approximately $13 million has been paid out to address sexual harassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly.

The fallout was swift. Over 50 companies—Subaru, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Allstate and GlaxoSmithKline among them—have pulled their ads from “The O’Reilly Factor,” though most will continue to advertise on other programs under the umbrella of Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox. Advocacy groups like Color of Change and the National Organization for Women have publicly denounced Fox News’ dismissal of the allegations, pressuring them to drop O’Reilly entirely.

“As horrifying as these new revelations of sexual harassment are, no advertiser can claim it’s the first time they’re hearing about O’Reilly’s long, documented history of sexism and racism,” Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color Of Change, said in a statement.

He continued: “From physically abusing his ex-wife and sexually harassing one of his producers to lying about being attacked during the 1992 Los Angeles riots and denigrating Congresswoman Maxine Waters on-air, Bill O’Reilly’s track record of sexual harassment and race baiting is hardly a secret. Fox News and O’Reilly’s advertisers have simply chosen to look the other way. Make no mistake—every time ‘The Factor’ goes to commercial it shows the businesses and corporations that keep the show alive, that pay O’Reilly’s salary, that pay for the lawyers who fight the victims of O’Reilly’s sexual harassment. If these brands think that this behavior would be acceptable from their own employees they should come out and say so.”

O’Reilly’s storied history of harassment allegations doesn’t stand out at Fox News. Last year, the network agreed to pay television commentator Gretchen Carlson $20 million after she filed a lawsuit against Fox News’ then-CEO and chairman Roger Ailes saying that she had suffered 11 years of sexual harassment in the workplace. In the following weeks, 25 other women—including Megyn Kelly—came forward with similar accounts.

In January, the New York Times reported that the network had quietly settled other sexual harassment suits, and on Monday, Julie Roginsky, a current Fox News contributor, filed an additional sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, Fox News and Bill Shine, the network’s co-president. These developments raise new questions about the internal investigation at Fox News that came out after the allegations against Ailes first became public.

After Ailes stepped down in the wake of the accusations, the network promised it would not tolerate any behavior that disrespects women—but Fox News is now standing behind its top revenue producer despite widespread outcry. Instead, Fox News indicated that it was trying to manage the controversy and is working to restore relations with the advertisers who dropped. Although O’Reilly has denied the claims, neither O’Reilly nor 21st Century Fox have commented on the matter since the report was released.

“The reported use of his powerful position to repeatedly manipulate women reveals a cruel misogyny that runs to the core of his character,” NOW president Terry O’Neill said in a statement. “For too long women have endured dangerous sexism at the hands of powerful men and powerful institutions. Fox News is too big and too influential to simply let this go.”

This article has been updated with the most recent number of advertisers that have dropped ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ since the initial report was released.

Alexa Strabuk is an editorial intern at Ms. and has worked as a writer, editor, graphic illustrator and editorial intern for magazines including ELLE, YES!, The Student Life and Mochi. She was recognized by the Asian American Journalists Association for her work as an up-and-coming reporter. Alexa is pursuing a B.A. in Media Studies at Pitzer College with a minor in Asian American Studies.

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