The financial fallout is growing as the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News spreads.
Mitsubishi Motors, Hyundai Motor Co., BMW of North America and Mercedes-Benz say they’re pulling advertising from top-rated Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” because of allegations levied against its host, Bill O’Reilly.
“The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” Mercedes, a unit of Daimler, said Monday in a statement. Fox didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The defections show that the growing scrutiny of the treatment of Fox News’s female employees is beginning to have an impact on the business. Until now, the most-watched cable news network has shown little ill effect despite months of negative headlines from the scandal that erupted around Roger Ailes, the former president of the network, leading to his departure in July. Now allegations are coming to light against O’Reilly, showing that issues of harassment at Fox may not have been limited only to Ailes.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that five women have received payments from either 21st Century Fox or from O’Reilly in exchange for agreeing not to sue or talk about their allegations that O’Reilly verbally abused them, subjected them to unwanted advances or made lewd comments.
Even with advertisers pulling out of its most popular program, shares of corporate parent 21st Century Fox Inc. fell less than 1 percent to $31.87 at 11:40 a.m. in New York. Through Monday, the stock had been up 12 percent over the past year, thanks in part to the large audience for Fox News, its most profitable network, and O’Reilly, its most popular host.
Fox has stood by O’Reilly, who has said he is a target for such allegations because of his prominence.
“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” a company spokesman said in a statement last weekend. “Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly.”