The Post reported on Wednesday on the stunning downfall of controversial gadfly host Bill O’Reilly after a 20-year run at Fox News:
Second, President Trump, who has had his own string of female accusers and a history of misogynistic rhetoric, dubbed the Fox News host a “good person.” Trump declared, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” once again demonstrating how out of touch the president is with the culture, morals and values of the country. The notion that “religious” leaders should continue to support Trump and vouch for him bespeaks of how far the politicization of evangelical ranks has gone and the degree to which they have sacrificed their moral standing. The pro-Trump evangelicals were not among those calling for O’Reilly to leave. So much for family values.
Third, real news from real outlets, in this case reporting from the New York Times, still matters. Without the Times’s discovery of multiple lawsuits, O’Reilly would still be there, preying on the next woman to come along. Ironically, Fox News, which has adopted Trump’s definition of “fake news” — anything harmful to Trump’s worldview — was undone by one of Trump’s favorite targets for insult and abuse. O’Reilly can deny the allegations all he likes — just as Trump continues to ask us to ignore what our own eyes tell us — but at some point, people will refuse to be conned.
Fourth, Fortune 500 businesses of the type that pulled their advertising from O’Reilly’s show, contrary to popular myth, are not bastions of racism, sexism and right-wing thuggery. They want to be seen as environmentally responsible, tolerant and modern. These multinational companies have public images to cultivate, diverse employees they need to attract and retain and fleets of lawyers and image-makers. The Fox News culture was an outlier, a “Mad Men” throwback with which these companies could not afford to be associated. The sensitivity of big business to public image and fear of giving offense, we have suggested, should encourage business-directed campaigns on issues such as child care, labor practices and the environment, especially in the Trump era. (Wall Street is a progressive nirvana compared with the Trump administration.)
Fifth, Fox News made the decision to dump O’Reilly because he was a business risk the network was unwilling to endure. There is no sign that its “leg cam” or dolled-up women will vanish. The glamorization, bordering on exploitation, of female on-air talent that provides the distinctive Fox News “look” will remain. (Aside from the sexism, we should acknowledge the ageism evident in the network’s selection of hosts.) Moreover, the underlying, broader issue for Fox News — does it want to be a refuge from reality for right-wingers, or a legitimate news operation? — remains. So long as the former pays handsomely, they’ll continue to be defined by “Fox & Friends,” Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.