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2017-04-05 08:36:02
Fox Losing More Advertisers After Sexual Harassment Claims Against O’Reilly

Pressure mounted on Tuesday for Fox News to take action against its top-rated host, Bill O’Reilly, as a series of prominent companies pulled advertising from his show and a leading women’s rights group called for his ouster.

Following an investigation by The New York Times over the weekend that revealed multiple settlements over allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by Mr. O’Reilly, the network faced a major advertising revolt as more than a dozen marketers said that they were withdrawing their ads from “The O’Reilly Factor.” Escalating the tension, the National Organization for Women called for Mr. O’Reilly to be fired and said an independent investigation should be conducted into the culture at Fox News.

“Fox News is too big and too influential to simply let this go,” Terry O’Neill, the president of NOW, said in a statement.

And inside Fox News, three women who work in the newsroom said that the continued support of Mr. O’Reilly by Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, led them to question whether the company was committed to maintaining a work environment “based on trust and respect,” as executives had promised last summer after the network’s founding chairman, Roger E. Ailes, was ousted. The employees requested anonymity because they feared retaliation for speaking publicly.

The erosion of advertising support, along with pressure from advocacy groups, heightened the sense of uncertainty at Fox News, which for months has been trying to move beyond the sexual harassment scandal that led to the dismissal of Mr. Ailes. It also raised questions about how long 21st Century Fox will stand behind Mr. O’Reilly. Fox News signaled that it was trying to contain the controversy and working to restore relations with the network’s advertisers, noting that companies had reallocated their spending from Mr. O’Reilly’s program to other network shows.

“We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’” Paul Rittenberg, the executive vice president for advertising sales at Fox News, said in a statement. “At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.”

If more advertisers leave the program, Fox News and 21st Century Fox may have to respond. Mr. O’Reilly, 67, is the network’s most visible star, leading a prime time programming slate that draws industry-leading ratings with its conservative commentary. “The O’Reilly Factor,” which draws almost 4 million viewers a night, generated more than $446 million in advertising revenue from 2014 through 2016, according to the research firm Kantar Media.

A spokesman for Mr. O’Reilly, Mark Fabiani, declined to comment on Tuesday. Mr. O’Reilly has said that the accusations against him are without merit and that his fame has made him a target “for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel.” He did not address the issue on either his Monday night or Tuesday night broadcasts.

Mr. O’Reilly’s contract, which was set to expire this year, has been extended by 21st Century Fox, people familiar with the deal said. When the company agreed to the extension, it was aware of multiple settlements that had been reached with women who had complained about his behavior, and it structured the deal to include more leverage over his behavior, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. O’Reilly earns about $18 million a year.

The advertising boycott and the public outcry echo what happened to the radio host Don Imus a decade ago over racially and sexually charged statements he made about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. After a series of advertisers suspended their ads from his radio and television program, and NOW called for his ouster, NBCUniversal canceled the simulcast of his show on MSNBC. And at Fox News, the former host Glenn Beck left the network in 2011 after hundreds of advertisers refused to allow their ads on his program.

On Tuesday, multiple advocacy groups started campaigns targeting advertisers of “The O’Reilly Factor.” The Women’s March group posted a message on Twitter, encouraging people to use the term “#DropOReilly” to tell advertisers to pull their ads from the program and also encouraged people to share their own experiences with sexual harassment.

The advocacy group Color of Change also started a campaign focusing on the advertisers of the show. “Their money and support is keeping him on the air,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of the organization. “It is rewarding his actions. It is rewarding the damage he has done to people in their lives and their careers.”

“In essence, these corporations are the ones whose money is paying the settlements,” Mr. Robinson added.

Among the companies pulling their ads from Mr. O’Reilly’s show are the car companies Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, BMW of North America, Mitsubishi and Lexus; the pharmaceutical and health care companies Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Consumer HealthCare; and Allstate, the insurance company.

The decisions came after The Times investigation found that five women who had accused Mr. O’Reilly of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior received settlements totaling about $13 million.

“Mitsubishi Motors takes these allegations very seriously, and we have decided that we will pull our advertising at the present time,” Alex Fedorak, a company spokesman, said in a statement. Mitsubishi spent about $2.1 million for ads on the “The O’Reilly Factor” in 2016, making it the show’s fifth-largest advertiser, according to iSpot.tv, the TV ad analytics firm.

Some advertisers have said they will continue to run ads on his show. Cheryl Reed, a spokeswoman for Angie’s List, said, “Just as we trust members to make their own hiring decisions, we trust them to make their own media consumption decisions.”

The weight loss company Jenny Craig was noncommittal, saying: “As an organization, Jenny Craig condemns any and all forms of sexual harassment. As a matter of corporate policy, we do not publicly comment on our advertising strategy.”

An ad for Jenny Craig appeared during Mr. O’Reilly’s show on Monday night.

The broader legal troubles for Fox News continued on Tuesday. Monica Douglas, a black Fox News employee, joined a lawsuit that was filed last week against Fox News by two other women, asserting that they were subjected to racial harassment at the network. The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in the Bronx. Fox News dismissed the executive named in the suit, Judith Slater, the longtime controller, on Feb. 28. It said in a statement “there is no place for conduct like this at Fox News, which is why Ms. Slater was fired.”

On Monday, Julie Roginsky, a current Fox News contributor, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Ailes, Fox News and Bill Shine, one of the network’s co-presidents, asserting that she faced retaliation for rebuffing Mr. Ailes’s sexual advances. Mr. Ailes has denied all the sexual harassment accusations against him.