Former Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly suggested his ouster from the 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news outlet last month was "a hit job" in an interview with Glenn Beck on the pundit's radio program Friday.
"Look, the entire ordeal was a hit job, and in the weeks to come, we will be able to explain some of it," O'Reilly said. "It really has to do with destroying voices that the far-left doesn't like. That's the general tone."
The interview was the first public one O'Reilly has given since 21st Century Fox announced on April 19 that O’Reilly would not return to the channel, following revelations that he and network paid five women to settle sexual harassment claims over the years.
"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 said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
The decision to cut ties with O’Reilly was made just one day after another woman came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against O'Reilly.
O'Reilly, 67, has said he made the payments to protect his children, and that his fame makes him a target.
On Beck's program, O'Reilly hinted that he might take legal action or at the very least expose some parties he feels played a role in his demise at the cable-news network. "Look, people were very sad when it happened. I felt bad not only for me and my staff, but for the viewers and listeners because they really had no idea what had happened. People know the left-wing media hates me and hates Fox News, but they don't know the full extent of it," he said, adding: "We are accumulating information and hopefully it will all be made clear soon."
He also said: "There's going to be an exposition soon, but I can't tell you when, about who exactly this crew is that terrorizes sponsors, threatens people behind the scenes, that pays people to say things. We're going to name them, and it will be a big story. The left-wing media will downplay the story, but it's coming. Unfortunately, I was target No. 1. It's sad for me, for my family and it's grossly dishonest. From now on when I'm attacked, I'll take legal action."
O'Reilly has not completely receded from public life, returning to his podcast “No Spin News” on April 24, less than a week after his ousting
The podcast, which O’Reilly has been hosting for years, is available to premium subscribers of his website.
"The O’Reilly Factor" had been Fox News’ most watched program and had just come off the highest-rated first quarter in its history, averaging nearly 4 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen.
O’Reilly will be paid a maximum of one year's salary as he leaves Fox News, a source said. The source declined to comment on O'Reilly's annual salary, but CNN reported on April 20 that the host's new contract provided about $25 million a year.
Keep scrolling for a breakdown of the sexual harassment allegations, how O’Reilly and Fox News responded, and even what President Donald Trump had to say about the scandal.
It may have been April Fools’ Day, but The New York Times article published April 1 was no joke. An investigation by the newspaper revealed that five women had been given sums totaling $13 million by either Fox News or O’Reilly in exchange for not pursuing litigation over allegations of harassment as well as for not going public on the matter.
The accusers were all women who either worked directly for O’Reilly or who appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor,” according to The Times. Complaints included verbal abuse, unwanted advances and lewd comments, the paper said, citing documents and interviews.
Of the five settlements, four involved sexual harassment claims and the fifth involved verbal abuse allegations, The Times reported.
The largest settlement was a payout of $9 million in a 2004 sexual harassment lawsuit filed against O'Reilly by former Fox News producer Andrea Mackris.
Two of the settlements were previously known before The Times report, but three others were unearthed by the paper.
After The Times report, Wendy Walsh, who used to be a regular guest on the show, also called a hotline set up by Fox News and submitted a formal complaint against O'Reilly. Bloom also represents Walsh, and the pair posted a YouTube video of them making the complaint.
Walsh was featured in The Times story, but was not one of the five who received settlements.
On April 18, more than two weeks after The Times report, Bloom announced that another woman had come forward.
"I represent a new woman who just phoned in a complaint of sexual and racial harassment against Bill O'Reilly to the Fox News hotline," Bloom tweeted, adding that the unnamed accuser does not seek a financial settlement, "just accountability."
Bloom said in follow-up tweets that her phone has been "ringing off the hook," and warned the Murdochs, including Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, that she would represent all of O'Reilly's accusers for free.
Requests for comment on the new accuser from Fox News and Bloom were not immediately returned.
O’Reilly’s response and Fox News’ stance
A day after reports began to surface that the Murdoch family was considering leaving O'Reilly behind, 21st Century Fox announced it was doing just that.
In an internal memo to Fox News employees, Murdoch called O'Reilly "one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news." He also noted that the "decision follows an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel."
The company had initially stood by O'Reilly when The Times story was published, but as the scandal took hold and advertisers jumped ship it was apparent that the popular show host and the network were at a crossroads.
With O'Reilly away on vacation, Murdoch had been arguing with his sons, James and Lachlan, about the host's fate, New York Magazine reported, citing three sources familiar with the situation. James and Lachlan were in favor of leaving O'Reilly behind and were at odds with their father on the matter, the publication reported.
O'Reilly released his own statement on April 19, saying that, "It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today."
O’Reilly has been dogged by claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior for years, but he has maintained his innocence.
"In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline," O’Reilly had said in a statement on April 1, before Walsh made her complaint to the hotline. "I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children."
Before Fox News decided to sever ties with O'Reilly, 21st Century Fox had asked the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to investigate Walsh's complaint to the hotline.
"21st Century Fox investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul, Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters,” the company said in a statement.
"The O'Reilly Factor" will finish out the week on Fox News with guest hosts Dana Perino and Greg Gutfled, the network announced. Beginning Monday, "Tucker Carlson Tonight" will replace "The O'Reilly Factor" in the 8 p.m. slot. "The Five" will then move to the 9 p.m. hour.
A request for comment from O'Reilly on the separation was not immediately returned.
Companies pulling advertising
More than 50 companies removed advertising from "The O’Reilly Factor" following the allegations.
Companies that pulled advertising included Mercedes-Benz, BMW of North America, Allstate Corp., Angie’s List, French pharmaceuticals maker Sanofi SA, direct marketer Constant Contact, men's clothing company Untuckit and mutual fund operator T. Rowe Price.
Untuckit was one of the show’s top advertisers, having spent $365,556 over the past 30 days and a total of $1.36 million in 2016, according to the ad-tracking firm iSpot.tv.
"In light of the disturbing allegations, we instructed our media buyer this morning to reallocate our ad dollars to other shows, effective immediately," Untuckit chief executive Aaron Sanandres said.
Paul Rittenberg, Fox News’ executive vice president of advertising sales, said the ads that were pulled from the show were transferred to other programs on the network.
Ad time on the show saw a significant drop -- 50 percent -- in the first week since the allegations were revealed. The show on April 7 bottomed out with only seven ads, according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media. The show used to average about 33 advertisements, Kantar said.
"The O'Reilly Factor" had actually maintained strong viewership despite the scandal, according to Nielsen.
O'Reilly's ratings were strong with an average of 3.7 million viewers per show in the week following The Times report -- up from the previous week, per Nielsen. "The O'Reilly Factor" also was the most-watched cable news program among total viewers, the media tracking firm said.
The show's pace continued in its second week since the report, averaging 3.7 million on the Monday and Tuesday before O'Reilly went on vacation.
In a letter to the New York City Commission on Human Rights on April 10, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James called for an investigation into alleged racial discrimination and sexual harassment at Fox News.
James cited The Times report as well as a lawsuit by three black female employees of Fox News who allege Judith Slater, the network’s former senior vice president, subjected them to “discriminatory statements and conduct” for years.
Separately, the public advocate also urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate why Fox News has not disclosed risks related to the lawsuits and any settlements to its shareholders.
Following news of O'Reilly's departure Wednesday, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said the mayor believes Fox News is getting its comeuppance.
"Asked rn about O'Reilly, @NYCMayor says 'Fox is paying the price for their culture,' " spokesman Eric Phillips tweeted.
21st Century Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the investigations.
No stranger to claims of sexual harassment himself, Trump weighed in on the controversy on April 5, saying O’Reilly is “a good person.”
"I think he’s a person I know well -- he is a good person,” the president said during an interview with The Times.
Trump went as far as to say he believes O’Reilly shouldn’t have gone along with the settlements.
"I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled,” he told The Times. “Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
Trump has yet to comment about 21st Century Fox's decision to split with O'Reilly.
With Nicole Brown and Reuters