*EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with civil rights leader Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color Of Change, to discuss his campaign to pressure advertisers to drop Bill O’Reilly’s show, “The O’Reilly Factor.”
With O’Reilly abruptly going on vacation last week, speculation grew quick that the two-week, “forced” getaway signaled the end for conservative talking head. Now, with news that 21st Century Fox has bowed to public pressure and fired the longtime host, many are calling it the “end of an era” for CEO Rupert Murdoch.
Following recent revelations about O’Reilly’s history of sexual harassment, Color Of Change launched a campaign demanding that “O’Reilly Factor” advertisers pull their spots from the show. Color Of Change was also the driving force behind the successful campaign that drove Glenn Beck off the air — which in the end, saw more than 300 advertisers drop spots before Fox News cancelled his show.
The unprecedented advertiser exodus from “The O’Reilly Factor” saw between 65-70 advertisers drop the show. “Big major brands” hit the hills and ran “as far away from The O’Reilly Factor as possible,” said Robinson.
“We’ve been engaged on and off for the last couple of years in this effort. We’ve had conversations behind the scenes with corporations, both in writing and over the phone, and when the latest news broke, both his disparaging, racist and sexist remarks about Congresswoman Waters, as well the announcement of the settlement, we realized that there was nothing that we could do but give these corporations one last chance,” Robinson explained.
“Some corporations started dropping but what we really did was said enough is enough, and we started mobilizing our members. Over 275,000 of our members either signed a petition or made a phone call around O’Reilly. It’s not just what Fox news puts on the air, it’s how it’s reflected in terms of their business practices. We’re gonna hold the Murdochs accountable.”
Color of Charge also Geo-targeted Fox News headquarters and affiliates with digital ads that share a phone number to confidentially report harassment.
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On April 19, Fox News confirmed that the network cut ties to “The O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly. The news comes after multiple allegations emerged that O’Reilly has sexually harassed and verbally abused female employees. The Times reports that about $13 million has been paid out to a total of five women who have accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment.
“I think for many of the corporations, it becomes very hard for them to defend that. The corporations that have sponsored O’Reilly over the years, it’s their money that has paid for these settlements.”
Prior to his termination, O’Reilly was “under a bit of fire internally” and no longer had the type of power he once held at Fox.
“There has been leadership changes at Fox,” said Robinson. “Roger Ailes is no longer in charge, and there’s a new generation running the place.”
The activist-driven advertiser boycott was a key factor in O’Reilly’s demise, and the fact that O’Reilly has been fired by Fox is “all about money,” and not because of his racist, divisive rhetoric.
“The Murdochs care about money. These corporations are trying to make money. So we’re very clear in our campaign that we’ve got to build power. We’ve got to translate the energy of everyday people who say enough is enough. These corporations have known about O’Reilly for a long time.”
Over the last two years Color Of Change has been in direct communication behind the scenes with 100 advertisers, including formerly major sponsors who dropped the show like Nutrisystem and General Motors.
“Fox News and the Murdochs only listen when they hear the sound of money rushing out the door,” said Robinson in a press release. “If dozens of advertisers had not dropped ‘The Factor,’ Bill O’Reilly would still be endangering 21st Century Fox employees.”
Robinson calls O’Reilly’s termination a “victory” which “belongs to all those who he has victimized, “and those who have demanded that the corporations that sponsor his show put their money where their values are and pull their spots. Thanks to that pressure, Bill O’Reilly will no longer be a menace on-air or in the halls of Fox News’s headquarters.”
He added, “Bill O’Reilly has spent years spewing racism and harassing women. Today, his reign of hate and abuse comes to an end.”
In addition to directly pressuring advertisers, Color Of Change has also submitted a briefing to the British media regulator Ofcom, urging them to investigate harassment at 21st Century Fox before approving the company’s acquisition of European media giant Sky plc. The precarity of the Sky deal has been widely cited as a reason for O’Reilly’s termination.
“There are more cases about the culture at Fox that is not just sexist but racist and we’ve got ‘em and we’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s unfortunate that Fox spent years trying to avoid this, saying it wasn’t happening, hiring expensive lawyers to try to make sure that this went away. How much money are they willing to lose?”
Visit www.colorofchange.org for more information and learn how you can get involved with the movement.