Disgraced former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly—who was forced out of the right-leaning cable network last year after the New York Times revealed his and Fox’s millions of dollars in payoffs to the female victims of O’Reilly’s alleged sexual misconduct—is positioning himself for a television comeback.
The 68-year-old O’Reilly—who reigned supreme as cable television’s highest-rated personality for more than a decade until a series of scandals ultimately imploded his career—has been appearing regularly as a guest on the Newsmax channel for the past several months, looking a bit grayer than during his final days on Fox.
“We love what Bill’s doing here now,” Newsmax TV chief executive Michael Clemente, who ran Fox News’s non-opinion journalism for several years, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday, noting that O’Reilly is currently an unpaid contributor. “There are no discussions [for an expanded role] going on now. But if this keeps going the way it’s going, we’d love to revisit it in the fall and see what could be done.”
Newsmax—which reaches around 50 million U.S. households on various cable and satellite systems, somewhat over half of Fox News’ near-total national penetration—has been editing highlights of O’Reilly’s paid-subscription podcast on his website BillOReilly.com, along with his regular Wednesday night appearances on Newsmax Now, into a half-hour program that airs repeatedly on the channel’s weekend schedule.
O’Reilly has been a weekly visitor to Newsmax’s 40th Street studios across from Manhattan’s Bryant Park.
O’Reilly’s last-minute appearance as a commentator on Newsmax’s Jan. 30 State of the Union broadcast was especially successful, Clemente said, luring a significant increase in viewership over previous years’ coverage – although, as Mediaite reported, the ratings remained negligible, reaching a high of only 17,000 households.
O’Reilly’s New York attorney, Fred Newman, was unavailable for comment at deadline.
Clemente was responding to a report by the New York Post’s Page Six column that O’Reilly—as well as former Fox News personalities Greta Van Susteren and Eric Bolling, along with former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer—are in talks with to the conservative channel about anchoring their own shows.
Van Susteren's show would go out at 7 p.m., O’Reilly at 8 p.m. (his old time slot at Fox, which presumably would offer competition to the current occupant, Tucker Carlson), Bolling at 9 p.m., and Spicer at 10 p.m.
Clemente, however, diplomatically threw cold water on the claim that anybody, including O’Reilly, is in “talks,” or that Newsmax is considering giving shows to Van Susteren (who left Fox in 2016 and has been working with the Voice of America since an abortive stint last year at MSNBC) and Bolling (who left Fox last September under a sexual harassment cloud and has been an anti-opioid activist since the overdose death the same month of his 19-year-old son Eric).
“We’re flattered that Bolling and Greta are interested and could be contributors,” Clemente said, perhaps pointedly leaving Spicer out of the mix.
Yet, despite O’Reilly’s warehouse-full of negative baggage—including his fabrication of anecdotes regarding coverage of the Falklands War and the aftermath of the JFK assassination, plus the revelation that O’Reilly had personally paid an eye-popping $32 million sexual harassment settlement to Fox News contributor Lis Wiehl—he would be a huge catch for Newsmax.
With his massive loyal following, the theory goes, O’Reilly could immediately place the comparatively low-rated channel in direct competition with Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.