Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai are pulling ads from Fox News host Bill O’Reilly after a New York Times report revealed that the conservative pundit and his employer had paid five women $13 million to settle allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
In a statement to CNN Monday, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz said their advertising on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox New’s most popular show, had been “reassigned in the midst of the controversy.”
“The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” Donna Boland, corporate communications manager at Mercedes-Benz, said in the statement.
Hyundai later followed suit, reported BuzzFeed News, saying in a statement that the company was “reallocating” upcoming advertising spots “due to the recent and disturbing allegations” against O’Reilly.
“As a company, we seek to partner with companies and programming that share our values of inclusion and diversity,” Hyundai said in the statement. “We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as we plan future advertising decisions.”
Fox News said in a statement to The Washington Post that it is in conversations with advertisers who have expressed concern.
“We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about the O’Reilly Factor,” Paul Rittenberg, executive vice president of advertising sales at Fox News, said in the statement. “At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.”
CNN’s Tom Kludt contacted more than 20 companies and brands that advertise on O’Reilly’s show and reporters at BuzzFeed News reached out to about 50 organizations. Both publications sought comment on the allegations outlined in the Times report.
A spokesman for Jenny Craig said in a statement that the weight loss company “condemns any and all forms of sexual harassment” but would not comment specifically on its advertising strategy.
“What I can tell you is that we are constantly evaluating our media buys to maximize the efficiency of our corporate investment and effectively reach our target audience,” the Jenny Craig statement said.
Lexus will “monitor the situation,” a spokesman for the car company said in a statement to CNN and the Daily Beast. “We take our duties as a responsible advertiser seriously,” the statement said, “and seek to partner with organizations who share our company culture and philosophy of respect for all people.”
Kludt reported that dog food brand Nutrish declined to comment. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards clarified that its advertisements are placed on multiple channels and shows by an advertising network and that they will no longer have placements on Fox News after their “spring flight” winds down.
The O’Reilly Factor is Fox News’ top rated show and its viewership has continued to climb in the last year, reported the Associated Press. O’Reilly generates more than $100 million in annual advertising revenue, according to independent studies.
Fox News remains the most-watched cable network on TV, despite widespread allegations of sexual harassment that got its former chief executive, Roger Ailes, fired last summer. Ailes denied these accusations, even as some of the network’s top female talent lodged their own complaints.
On Monday, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky filed another sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes and accused Fox’s current management of trying to cover up his behavior. Her lawsuit claims that Ailes — who O’Reilly has defended — would insist upon hello kisses before meetings and require her to bend over so he could look down her dress, reported the Associated Press.
Roginsky alleged that she missed out on a permanent role on Fox’s show “The Five” after she turned down Ailes’s advances at a meeting in 2015. She also claimed she was pressured, but refused, to defend Ailes after the first harassment allegations were brought against him by Gretchen Carlson, reported the Associated Press.
In a statement emailed to NPR, Ailes’s lawyer Susan Estrich called Roginsky’s descriptions of meetings with her client “total hogwash … The idea that Mr. Ailes would pressure Ms. Roginsky or any other women to have sexual relations with him is total nonsense. This is about someone who wants to pile-on in a massive character assassination in order to achieve what she did not accomplish on the merits.”
Also Monday, psychologist Wendy Walsh, a radio and TV personality who once starred in a regular segment on O’Reilly’s show, detailed a sexual harassment allegation of her own during a news conference in Los Angeles.
Walsh alleged that O’Reilly asked to get dinner with her in Los Angeles in 2013, where he said he would recommend her for a paid contributor role at Fox. But O’Reilly later became hostile, Walsh alleged, when he asked her to join him in his hotel suite and she declined.
Walsh was later dropped from the show altogether, she said at the news conference.
Her attorney, Lisa Bloom, called on the Human Rights Commission in New York City to open an investigation into O’Reilly’s alleged behavior. The commission later told the Associated Press that it had not received a claim from Bloom or Walsh.
Walsh said she decided to publicly share her alleged interaction with O’Reilly after a New York Times reporter told her that many of the women who have accused the Fox star of sexual harassment are bound by gag orders related to settlements and cannot speak out.
“Nobody can silence me because my voice is not for sale,” Walsh said, according to the Associated Press. “Nobody can buy my voice.”
O’Reilly has yet to respond to the latest allegations. But in a statement posted on his website April 1 he said:
Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. 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.
But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.
The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.
The Hollywood Reporter said an internal email to Fox staff had gone out from Kevin Lord, executive vice president for human resources.
“Particularly in light of some of the accounts published over the last few days,” the email reportedly said, “I wanted to re-emphasize the message we have been conveying at our training sessions for several months … We want to give you every opportunity to be heard through a vehicle of your choice, so that we can attempt to address your concerns promptly and confidentially.”
Lord, the publication said, urged employees with complaints to contact him, the company’s compliance officers or the law firm, Paul Weiss, hired by Fox when the allegations Ailes first arose.
This post has been updated.
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