After O'Reilly ouster, Mike Huckabee uses ill-timed kiss analogy

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Bill O'Reilly tarnished the intellect of a generation, but at least we got Stephen Colbert out of it. A photographer from the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano snapped a photo of Francis reaching out to shake his hand.

Dr Walsh is one of five women who have accused the top-rated prime-time host of sexual harassment.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File).

The New York Times reported earlier this month that O'Reilly had a history of sexual harassment cases that had been covered up by Fox.

The risk for Fox News would have also intensified during the upfront advertising market, already in play, when companies decide where to make their advance commitments for commercial time that runs during the 2017-18 season.

O'Reilly is also one of the country's most popular nonfiction authors.

Last week, the Murdochs enlisted the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to investigate O'Reilly's behavior after one woman who had related complaints against O'Reilly to The Times called the Fox hotline to report her allegations.

By that time, the news had already generated considerable coverage on Fox's primary cable news competitors, CNN and MSNBC.

O'Reilly had been scheduled to return from a vacation next Monday.

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And he keeps echoing in the broader media landscape.

Up to four million viewers watched "The O'Reilly Factor" each evening, making it the most-watched cable TV program in 2016.

"It's a business and if the pushback... was going to hurt Fox's bottom line then he's gone", he told AFP.

That multiplying effect gave O'Reilly a role in a seismic change, he said.

"He helped shape the kind of very polarized discourse that has come to define politics over the past few years in America", Hollihan said. His No. 1 cable news show made about $178 million in advertising revenue in 2015.

The New York Times, which first reported the harassment settlements, said O'Reilly was an essential asset to Fox News.

O'Reilly's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, claimed that his client was being subjected to a "brutal campaign of character assassination" and that there is a smear campaign orchestrated by far-left organisations bent on destroying O'Reilly for political and financial reasons.

Due to the allegations, a slew of companies dropped their advertisements from O'Reilly's program, which ultimately became a precursor for the popular commentator's fall from grace.

The swift action underscores the rising clout of James and Lachlan Murdoch, the brothers who control 21st Century Fox and have demonstrated their willingness to flex their executive muscle even when it doesn't always align with their father's wishes. Shares of Twenty-First Century Fox ended Wednesday's trading on the Nasdaq down less than 1 percent at $30.39 and analysts said the network's viewers would likely remain loyal.