Fox losing more advertisers after sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly
NEW YORK — Fox News was facing a major advertising revolt on Tuesday as companies wary of the sexual harassment accusations against Bill O’Reilly continued to pull their ads from his prime-time cable news show.
At least nine more marketers said they were withdrawing ads from “The O’Reilly Factor,” making a total of at least 11 that have suspended their sponsorship in the last 24 hours. Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai announced their decisions Monday night, and Tuesday they were joined by BMW of North America; GlaxoSmithKline; T. Rowe Price; Mitsubishi; Allstate; Bayer; Constant Contact, an online marketer; Untuckit, a men’s clothing distributor; and Sanofi Consumer HealthCare, which advertised products like ACT mouthwash on O’Reilly’s show.
Bloomberg reported that Jaguar Land Rover and Eli Lilly had also pulled their ads and the Associated Press reported that Credit Karma and pet food company Ainsworth did so as well.
Locally, online home furnishings retailer Wayfair, which is based in Boston, moved its advertising spots from O’Reilly’s show to other programming while it assesses the situation, a spokeswoman said.
The advertising moves come after The New York Times published an investigation last weekend that found that five women who had accused O’Reilly, a former Boston news anchor, of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior received settlements totaling about $13 million.
“We are continually reviewing our advertising to ensure it is conducted in a responsible manner aligned with our values,” said Sarah Spencer, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline.
Also Tuesday, the National Organization for Women called for O’Reilly to be fired and said an independent investigation should be conducted into the culture at Fox News.
The erosion of advertising support 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 removal of Roger Ailes, the company’s chairman, last summer. And it raised questions about how long the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, will stand behind O’Reilly.
If more advertisers leave his program, Fox News and 21st Century Fox may be forced to respond. O’Reilly, 67, is the network’s most visible star, leading a prime-time programming slate that draws record ratings with its conservative commentary.
“The O’Reilly Factor,” which has 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.
The advocacy group Color of Change has started a campaign focusing on the advertisers of “The O’Reilly Factor.”
“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,” Robinson added.
Representatives for Fox News and 21st Century Fox could not immediately be reached for comment. 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.”
Fox has extended O’Reilly’s contract, which had been set to expire this year, according to people familiar with the deal. 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. O’Reilly earns about $18 million a year.
In announcing its decision Tuesday, BMW of North America said it had suspended its advertising with “The O’Reilly Factor” “in light of the recent New York Times investigation.”
GlaxoSmithKline, whose Flonase allergy spray, Breathe Right nasal strips, and Biotene mouthwash brands advertised on O’Reilly’s show, said the company had “temporarily put a hold on spots running on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ while we assess this situation.” Spots for those brands appeared during the program in the last 30 days, according to iSpot.tv, the TV ad analytics firm.
Lark-Marie Antón, the chief communications officer for Endurance International Group, which owns Constant Contact, said: “Based on the recent allegations and our strong commitment to inclusion, respect, and tolerance in the workplace, we have decided to pull Constant Contact’s ads from ‘The O’Reilly Factor.”’
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 O’Reilly’s show on Monday night.
In the meantime, the National Organization for Women issued a news release saying O’Reilly’s case “is part of a larger culture that condones the harassment and objectification of women at Fox News.”
“Men like Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Ailes will never be stopped as long as their behavior is allowed to continue, even supported, by their employer,” said Terry O’Neill, the president of NOW.
Also Tuesday, the legal troubles for Fox News continued. 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 New York City. 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.”
A day earlier, Julie Roginsky, a current Fox News contributor, filed a lawsuit against Ailes, Fox News, and Bill Shine, one of the network’s copresidents, asserting that she faced retaliation for rebuffing Ailes’s sexual advances. Ailes has denied all the sexual harassment accusations against him.
Megan Woolhouse of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Wire service reports were also used.