The lesson likely to be widely drawn from the eviction of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, announced Wednesday, is that even the biggest of big shots can’t evade their comeuppance forever. Put simply, “What goes around comes around.”
This will no doubt gratify the legions who detest O’Reilly for his politics, his abusive manners, his baleful influence on American public discourse, and his reported history of sexual harassment, the proximate cause of his departure from Fox.
But it’s the wrong lesson. The right lesson is less uplifting. It’s that if you bring in lots of money for your employer and have the right friends in the right places, you can get away with the most egregious conduct almost forever.
O’Reilly, after all, has been at the top of the broadcasting world for at least a couple of decades. He made it all the way to the post-retirement age of 67 before getting fired despite having been publicly accused of sexual harassment, in great detail, by a Fox producer in a quickly settled lawsuit nearly 17 years ago. The terms of his separation from Fox haven’t been disclosed, but it’s a safe bet that it will be measured in the millions of dollars.