Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, and eight other companies have pulled their ads from Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” after The New York Times published an investigation that revealed five women who had accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior had received settlements totaling approximately $13 million.
On Tuesday, the National Organization for Women called for an independent investigation into the culture at Fox News and for O’Reilly to be fired. This makes the matter doubly tense at Fox News, not just because O’Reilly is the network’s most profitable star but also because it is still trying to move on from the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Roger Ailes, the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Fox News who resigned last summer.
According to research firm Kantar Media, “The O’Reilly Factor” draws nearly four million viewers each night and generated more than $446 million in advertising revenue from 2014 through 2016; but in the last 24 hours many companies wishing to distance themselves from Bill O’Reilly have pulled their ads from his prime-time cable news show.
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Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, has started a campaign focusing on the show’s advertisers. “Their money and support is keeping him on the air,” he said. “It is rewarding his actions. It is rewarding the damage he has done to people in their lives and their careers.”
Some of O’Reilly’s advertising support came from auto manufacturers. While BMW wasn’t among the top 50 advertisers on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai were both regular spenders. Mitsubishi was the latest automaker to pull its support, as recently as this afternoon.
“Mitsubishi Motors takes these allegations very seriously and we have decided that we will pull our advertising at the present time. We will continue to monitor this situation as we assess our long-term strategy,” the company said in a statement.
It’s no surprise auto manufacturers are making this decision. According to AutoTrader senior analyst Michelle Kerbs, half of all car purchases are made by women and about 80% are influenced by them. Even if Bill O’Reilly turns out to be no more harmful than a fluffy bunny in a Fox News nest of cotton balls, for the moment, it’s just bad publicity.