Fox News is cable television’s most watched news network — but a flurry of sex scandals this week have advertisers fleeing for the hills.
Following bombshell accusations against popular on-air personality Bill O’Reilly, at least 16 major companies have withdrawn their support — and more are expected to follow.
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Additionally, a Fox News contributor came forward to level more sexual-harassment allegations against deposed chief executive Roger Ailes on Monday, two days after it was revealed by The New York Times that O’Reilly had settled multiple complaints about his own behavior with women.
O’Reilly returned to the air on Monday following a controversial weekend report that he and his employer had paid five women $13 million to settle allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate conduct by Fox’s ratings king.
He made no mention of the case on his show, and has not publicly admitted his guilt.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for another woman who says she was punished for rebuffing O’Reilly’s advances called on New York City’s Human Rights Commission to investigate O’Reilly’s behavior.
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The new lawsuit against Ailes was brought by Fox’s Julie Roginsky and is notable because it accuses Fox’s current management of trying to cover up for Ailes.
Roginsky said Ailes, who lost his job last summer despite denying the sexual-harassment complaints, suggested she have sex with “older, married, conservative men.” She said Ailes would insist upon a kiss hello at their meetings, requiring her to bend over so he could look down her dress.
She was seeking a permanent role on Fox’s show “The Five.” But after an April 2015 meeting at which she turned down Ailes’ advances, he wouldn’t meet with her again, and she never got the regular role, she said.
Later, she said, she was pressured to join Team Roger, a group of people who publicly defended Ailes when the first harassment complaint made public against the Fox boss was brought by Gretchen Carlson last summer. Roginsky refused.
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She said that even though Fox executives knew she had her own harassment allegations against Ailes, she was never encouraged to speak to the law firm hired by Fox News parent 21st Century Fox to investigate claims against him. And she said Fox never looked into her charges. Her lawyer would not say Monday why Roginsky never contacted the firm on her own.
Roginsky said that during a meeting in December, new Fox top executive Bill Shine told her he didn’t believe the allegations against Ailes until recently. But the lawsuit alleges Shine and other top Fox executives should have known about Ailes’ behavior much earlier.
“Shine and other senior executives kept Ailes’ conduct secret and enabled it,” said the lawsuit, filed in state court.
Fox News representatives did not immediately return messages for comment.
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O’Reilly said over the weekend he is vulnerable to lawsuits from people who threaten to cause him bad publicity unless they get paid. He said he had “put to rest any controversies” to spare his children.
O’Reilly’s ratings have gone up over the past year with the intense interest in politics. Independent studies show he generates more than $100 million in advertising revenue per year for TV’s top-rated cable news network.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.