NEW YORK - 21st Century Fox, parent company of Fox News Channel, released a statement Wednesday afternoon indicating that they and commentator Bill O'Reilly have agreed that he would not be returning to the network:
“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.”
The abrupt dismissal ends O'Reilly's 21 years at the helm of The O'Reilly Factor, which started as The O'Reilly Report when the fledgling network began in 1996. He proved a steady ratings winner for the network over two decades and top ad generator, but also a lightning rod for controversy.
O'Reilly, 67, who recently signed a new multi-year contract worth more than $20 million a year, has been on vacation but was scheduled to return to the air Monday.
In a message to Fox employees, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the Fox News Channel, along with his sons, James and Lachlan, noted the decision follows "an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel."
While confirming O'Reilly's ouster, the note was also full of praise for his success. "By ratings standards, Bill O’Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news," the Murdochs wrote. "In fact, his success by any measure is indisputable.
"Fox News has demonstrated again and again the strength of its talent bench. We have full confidence that the network will continue to be a powerhouse in cable news."
In a nod to the current Fox News staff, which has undergone extensive turmoil with the ouster last year of chairman and CEO Roger Ailes — and now O'Reilly — over allegations of sexual impropriety, the Murdochs said they wanted to "underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect."
O'Reilly has steadfastly denied allegations of sexual impropriety as recently as this week when his attorney, Marc Kasowitz said: "There is obviously an orchestrated campaign by activists and lawyers to destroy Mr. O’Reilly and enrich themselves through publicity-driven donations.”
O'Reilly will be replaced in the coveted 8 p.m. ET time slot by Tucker Carlson, NPR reported.
USA Today contributed to this report.
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