Fox News, normally known for their right-leaning news reporting, has been in the news themselves over the past year or so as sexual harassment lawsuits have started to decimate the network as we know it. After Rodger Ailes was basically forced to leave the network over old and new sexual harassment lawsuits, the channel has been completely re-arranged in terms of the prime-time schedule aside from one aspect of it: Bill O’Reilly.
The host of The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly, has commanded the top spot in ratings for cable news shows for decades, offering a conservative, often controversial viewpoint. However, O’Reilly now finds himself in the same hot seat he has put so many others in over the years. The New York Times has published a piece revealing five instances in which O’Reilly was accused of sexual harassment. This is also happening simultaneously as O’Reilly is taking heat for comments made about a Congresswoman in which he mocked her hair in a way that was perceived as race-motivated.
With Rodger Ailes gone, the spotlight on sexual assault and harassment in the work place as well as just on Fox in general, it is clear that action of some sort must take place. There are a few options in this type of situation: Fox can fire him, suspend him, or put him on verbal warning stating that he will not get another chance given that there is any further misconduct. When talking to college students, they had mixed feelings about the steps Fox News must take to repair their image.
“I think five cases and the fact that other higher-ups seem to be doing the same thing makes this feel like sexual harassment is a theme at Fox. When that happens, I think they can’t just warn him. At least suspend him and start there,” explained Connor Grade, 19, a sophomore at Ramapo College.
However, Fox News may not be so willing to suspend their top earner in ratings.
“Suspending someone like him isn’t easy. He’s Bill O’Reilly. I feel like if you punish him its either going to be behind closed doors or a flat out firing. Coming back after a suspension for sexual harassment when you’re that famous isn’t easy at all,” said University of Maryland Senior, John Depirri.
Ultimately, it is clear that while the steps needed to be taken may be difficult, action without a doubt must happen quickly before the already damaged public perception of Fox News becomes one with a cloud of sexual harassment hanging over it.
The first step to doing this is to show accountability for every wrongdoing. Prove to the public that actions taken by the company are because it cares and not to just cover up another old male executive accused of misconduct with a younger female employee.
Most importantly, ensure that this never happens again. Put in place sexual harassment education sessions to make sure the network does not hire people that do not understand how to act in a professional setting.