Well, Fox News has found itself embroiled in yet another controversy recently, and this time it revolves around popular broadcaster Bill O'Reilly. The O'Reilly Factor host is currently at the center of yet another sexual harassment controversy for the network, with reports coming out a few days ago that five women were paid around $13 million total to keep quiet about their allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior by O'Reilly. Several advertisers on his show pulled out after word got out, but it looks like the news hasn't hurt his ratings any, as Tuesday night's broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor drew more than 3.76 million viewers.
According to Variety, data from Nielsen Media Research shows that those viewership numbers mean a whopping 20% increase in eyeballs on the show from the same day's telecast last week. The show also managed to increase the number of viewers between the ages of 25 and 54 from last Tuesday's broadcast by 11%, and even had more overall viewers than either NBC's new comedy Trial and Error or ABC's latest comedic offering, Imaginary Mary. It was also the most watched cable-based news program among total viewers and that 25-54 age demographic.
This would seem to be one of those times where all publicity is good publicity. Even though the allegations of sexual harassment are terrible, there are, undoubtedly, a lot of people who tuned in to The O'Reilly Factor this week to see if Bill O'Reilly would talk about those allegations, or the reports of women being paid not to talk about them, on the air. It's also necessary to remember that O'Reilly, like quite a few Fox News hosts, has a pretty dedicated following, and if he has fans who don't actually watch on a regular basis, they might be more prone to check the show out specifically to help give the program a boost when they think it might be coming under fire.
O'Reilly, for his part, hasn't said anything about the controversy on air so far. He did, however, release a statement a couple of days ago, which doesn't dispute that payments were made to avoid negative publicity. Instead, his statement talks about how he and other well-known and controversial people are often targets for lawsuits from those who are looking to extract money from them. O'Reilly noted in his statement that he "put to rest any controversies to spare" his children being hurt by the allegations, and also made it clear that no one had ever reported him to the company's human resources department, even anonymously.
It would seem that the floodgates at Fox News have opened, and that, while we don't know if all of the recent allegations of harassment are true, it is getting harder to imagine that something isn't very wrong in the corporate culture over there. Even if that proves to be true, though, the network has a lot of fans, and they appear to be willing to stick with Bill O'Reilly and his fellow broadcasters through quite a lot.