“Before we get to any other big stories of the day, we want to address a situation many of you may already be aware of,” guest host Dana Perino said at the top of The O’Reilly Factor Wednesday night. “Bill O’Reilly, who hosted this program for 20 years, is leaving the Fox News Channel. We know that you, his very loyal viewers, will have a lot of feelings about this, and we will talk more about it later in the program.”
By the end of the show, his name had been stripped from the on-screen title. Now the show was just called The Factor.
As promised, after nearly an hour, Perino spent one minute discussing O’Reilly’s dramatic firing after more than two decades on the network, following several accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace.
“It is the end of an era here at the Fox News Channel. As we mentioned earlier, Bill O’Reilly is leaving this chair and this network after more than 20 years. Bill has been the undisputed king of cable news—and for good reason,” Perino said. “He is an incredibly talented broadcaster who raised the bar for interviewers everywhere. He has also held his staff to exacting standards in his quest to put the best possible program on the air, and they are great.”
She did not mention the $13 million in settlements that O’Reilly and Fox paid out to at least five different women. She did not say the words “sexual harassment.” And she did not mention that the same thing happened last year to her former boss, Roger Ailes.
“And you, his audience, responded in record numbers, making The Factor the No. 1 cable news show for more than 16 years,” Perino continued. “You have also been loyal, and we can’t tell you how much that means to everyone on The Factor.” O’Reilly’s name was once again missing from the name of the show.
Perino quoted just one section of the memo that Rupert, James, and Lachlan Murdoch sent to staff members earlier in the day: “By ratings standards, Bill is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news. In fact, his success, by any measure, is indisputable.”
Then, she added her own final message. “We wish him the very best,” Perino said.
But it was hard to believe that she really meant it.