Fox News host Bill O’Reilly announced on Tuesday that he was taking a vacation to an unspecified location, effective immediately — a move that comes as dozens of advertisers flee his program, The O’Reilly Factor, over accusations of sexual misconduct.
O’Reilly framed the break as consistent with what he has done every spring. "Often around this time of year, I grab some vacation because it’s spring and Easter time,” he said on Tuesday’s show, claiming that he booked the trip in the fall. A Fox spokesperson said that O’Reilly will return on April 24.
Lisa Bloom, the attorney for Wendy Walsh, a psychologist and radio host who alleges that in 2013 O’Reilly withdrew an offer to be a Fox contributor after she rebuffed his sexual advances, does not buy that explanation. “I have no reason to believe the vacation is real, and every reason to believe it's a cover,” Bloom told The Outline.
A closer look at O’Reilly’s vacation history over the past five years lends credence to Bloom’s theory. Last August, he announced on-air that he would take a few days off — despite having recently returned from a two-week vacation to Ireland and Normandy, France — after former Fox host Andrea Tantaros alleged in a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court that O’Reilly had sexually harassed her. In the suit, Tantaros said that O’Reilly had invited her to his Long Island home where it was “very private” and told the former host that he could see her having a “wild side.”
“Now, excellent weather here in the northeast so I am going to take a few days resting up for the brutal campaign that’ll ramp up in September and October,” O’Reilly said on his show then.
As far as O’Reilly’s claim that he “often” takes vacation around Easter, which is this Sunday — that may be technically true, but not nearly to this extent. A Fox spokesperson was unable to provide a schedule of O’Reilly’s past vacations, but according to show transcripts posted on the network’s website, O’Reilly has taken sporadic days off near the holiday over the past five years, but never anything as lengthy as the current hiatus, which some speculate will be indefinite.
In April 2016, the host traveled to Cuba for what he described as “part of” a week — and it’s interesting to note that the Cuba trip, like the vacation to Ireland and Normandy before it, served as fodder for his show. In April of 2013, 2014, and 2015, guest hosts like Eric Bolling, Laura Ingraham, and Scott Brown took over for O’Reilly on scattered days, but nothing that added up to a lengthy vacation for the host.
This hiatus, longer than any of those, comes amid questions over whether O’Reilly will lose his show, as Fox host Glenn Beck did. After Beck said in 2009 that President Obama was a “racist” who “hates white people,” an organization called Color of Change launched a campaign to pressure advertisers to drop out of his show, which was eventually cancelled in 2011. Fox did not openly cite the loss of sponsors as the reason for the cancellation until two years later, when Beck criticized the network and a spokesperson shot back, “Advertisers fled his show and even Glenn knows what that means in our industry.”
“When Color of Change started their Glenn Beck boycott, urging an ad boycott against Glenn Beck, he didn’t pay much attention to it and Fox News didn’t pay much attention to it,” Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters, told The Outline last week. “And three months later, 60 advertisers were gone, and a year later two or three hundred were gone. Beck didn’t lose his audience. O’Reilly won’t lose his audience. But if Fox can’t monetize three million viewers, what’s the point of having three million viewers? So that’s the danger he faces.”