Bill O'Reilly, the bellicose conservative commentator whose show has been the highest rated in cable TV news for 17 years, has been dismissed from the Fox News Channel amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
O'Reilly departure comes nine months after longtime Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, for decades one of the most powerful men in politics, was also forced to leave the company after a former network anchor filed a lawsuit alleging years of sexual harassment.
"After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel," the network's parent, 21st Century Fox (FOXA) , wrote in a statement Wednesday.
Fox shares were down 0.5% to $30.51 in afternoon trading.
Later on Wednesday, O'Reilly released his own statement, remaining defiant in the face of multiple allegations of sexual harassment along with the revelation, reported April 1 by The New York Times, that $13 million had been paid by O'Reilly and Fox News since 2004 to women in exchange for agreeing not to sue or talk publicly about the charges.
"It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims," O'Reilly said. "But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel."
Fox News separately announced that beginning April 29, Tucker Carlson Tonight will move into O'Reilly's 8 p.m. Eastern time slot from 9 p.m. Continuing the shuffle, Carlson's former slot will be filled by a roundtable of commentators on The Five, which had been airing at 5 p.m. That show will be co-hosted by Kimberly Guilfoyle, Dana Perino, Bob Beckel, Greg Gutfeld, Juan Williams and new addition Jesse Watters.
Martha MacCallum will continue to host the 7 p.m. hour, while Sean Hannity retains his spot at 10 p.m. Eric Bolling, currently a co-host on The Five, will debut a new show beginning May 1 at 5 p.m.
O'Reilly's importance to Fox News, and by extension to Rupert Murdoch's global media conglomerate, can't be overstated. Relentlessly pugnacious, O'Reilly's attacks on what he sees as "political correctness" made him the top-rated news anchor on cable TV for 68 consecutive quarters.
Though Rupert Murdoch reportedly had resisted pressure from his sons -- James, Fox's CEO, and Lachlan, its co-executive chairman -- to dismiss O'Reilly, the younger family members apparently persevered. While James had pushed early-on for O'Reilly's exit, Lachlan wasn't swayed it was the right move until his wife convinced him, according to New York's Gabriel Sherman.