Fox News has reportedly decided to end its 21-year relationship with top-rated host Bill O’Reilly in the wake of multiple sexual harassment allegations and three names have emerged as likely replacements.
According to New York Magazine, those under consideration to replace O’Reilly include Eric Bolling, Dana Perino and Tucker Carlson.
Bolling, currently a co-host of The Five, is a frequent guest host for The O’Reilly Factor. Perino, also on The Five, hosted The O’Reilly Factor on Tuesday night, while Carlson, the host of his own program on Fox at 9 p.m. Eastern, would be bumped back to 8 p.m., creating a new opening at the later slot.
O’Reilly, now on vacation in Italy, was slated to return on April 24, but according to New York Magazine, it is not clear if Fox will allow him back on the air, even to do a sign-off to his faithful audience, which averages over 3 million viewers per night.
The top-rated host recently signed a multi-year contract worth a reported $20 million per year, which could mean Fox will have a large pay out, if they part ways with O’Reilly.
Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch resisted calls to remove O’Reilly from the the network’s line up, but his sons, Lachlan and James, executives with parent company 20th Century Fox, finally prevailed upon him to make the decision, the Daily Mail reported.
A New York Times story claimed that Fox and O’Reilly paid out a combined $13 million to five women who accused the news host of sexual harassment: Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Gomez Diamond, Laurie Dhue, and Juliet Huddy.
Dozens of sponsors of the program pulled their advertisements following the story.
O’Reilly’s attorney, Marc E. Kasowitz, released a statement Tuesday saying his client “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination.”
Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was forced to step down last summer following multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
Both Ailes and O’Reilly started with FNC when the network launched in 1996.
The O’Reilly Factor has been the number one rated program in cable news since 2001.