For women who have spoken out against sexual harassment, Bill O’Reilly’s dismissal from Fox News is both a moment to celebrate the power women can have by speaking out and a symbol of how far we still have to go to make the workplace safe for women.
The network announced on Wednesday that it was cutting ties with the longtime anchor. The New York Times reported earlier this month that O’Reilly and the network had paid a total of about $13 million to settle claims with five women. After the Times investigative report, Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, launched its own investigation into some of the claims and announced on Wednesday that it had ended its relationship with O’Reilly after a “thorough and careful review.” O’Reilly said that the claims do not have merit, and his lawyer called the allegations a “brutal campaign of character assassination.”
Some celebrated the decision, noting that it was women who were responsible for O’Reilly’s exit and who sparked a larger conversation about the network’s culture. But others noted that his departure also came with a dollop of praise from the network — Wednesday’s statement said his “success by any measure is indisputable” — and likely a large chunk of change.
Here are responses to the ouster from prominent women.
The lawyer who represented three women who made claims against O’Reilly issued a “victory statement” that attributed the outcome to women speaking out and fighting back. “This is what happens when women speak our truth: we can slay dragons,” Bloom said. “Fox News should have fired him in 2004 when the first complaint was made, but at least they did it now. They did it because we persisted.”
The former Fox News anchor and Motto columnist didn’t explicitly respond to the news about O’Reilly, but sent a telling tweet just hours after the network announced his exit. “The only way to end harassment is to shine a light on it. Ask Congress to pass the Fairness in Arbitration Act. No more silencing women!” Carlson wrote.
Carlson filed a lawsuit against former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes last year, which prompted more women to come forward with similar allegations against him and an investigation that ultimately led to Ailes’ departure from the network. (Ailes denies all claims against him.)
A Fox News contributor, Roginsky filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News, Ailes and the network’s current co-president Bill Shine earlier this month, and chimed in on O’Reilly’s ouster on Twitter. A Fox News representative declined to comment on Roginsky’s suit, and Ailes has denied her claims through his lawyer. After the network sent out a statement on O’Reilly’s exit, which included that it was committed to “fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect,” Roginsky retweeted that phrase along with a single word: “Ahem.”
Nancy Erika Smith
Smith, who represented Carlson and Roginsky in their lawsuits, said in a statement that the firing “is an important next step to clean up Fox News and make it a respectful and professional work environment.” She also called on the network to resolve the other claims made by women and end its practice of including mandatory arbitration and confidentiality clauses in employees’ contracts, which she says “have silenced women and kept the harassers, enablers and retaliators in place.”
Hoover, a political commentator who worked as a contributor on O’Reilly’s show for a handful of years, opened up about her former boss and the culture of Fox News on CNN’s New Day on Thursday morning. She said that she often felt as though she was treated as “a blonde backdrop for O’Reilly’s opinions and not as a political analyst or commentator who’s there as a person in their own right with their own experiences and their own opinions,” she said. “That was frankly pretty common experience at Fox News.”
Hoover added that while she was never explicitly sexually harassed by the former anchor, she claims that there were moments that made her uncomfortable. “I had to navigate a minefield … to make sure that I was never in an experience or situation where I felt vulnerable,” she said. “He would critique everything about our appearances as soon as we would get on set — from the length of my eyelashes to the color of my lip gloss.”
Hill, who sparked a nationwide conversation about sexual harassment when she testified in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ 1991 Senate confirmation hearings that he had sexually harassed her, told USA Today that it’s essential for women to get their experiences with sexual harassment out in the open. “The idea that these kinds of behaviors can stay hidden is fading because there are ways to get them out. I think the key is to keep pushing,” Hill said. “When you deal with someone like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, the key is for people to keep coming forward.”
Rep. Maxine Waters
Waters responded to the news by writing on Twitter, “a day will come when rich men won’t be able to buy their way out of criminal conduct & they will go to jail.” The Congresswoman has a personal history with O’Reilly: Last month, O’Reilly apologized after saying that her hair looked like a “James Brown wig,” comments that were widely slammed as racist and sexist.