Six months ago, Bill O’Reilly was riding high. One of his top competitors at the network he helped put on the map, Megyn Kelly had jumped ship for two shows on a rival network. He was positioning his brand as the undisputed top dog at the network. Then, in about a week, it all came crashing down. Accused of sexual harassment, O’Reilly was out … humiliated and unemployable in the TV news entertainment industry.
O’Reilly’s Last Ditch Effort
O’Reilly denied the allegations, but he was too hot to touch. Even some of his longtime supporters quickly abandoned him. O’Reilly went to the internet and to podcasts in an attempt to resurrect his ailing media career. Now, he’s going somewhere most folks would have said was impossible: CNN.
No, O’Reilly will not be on the air after Anderson 360, but he is sitting down with CNN’s Michael Smerconish for a tell-all interview. This will mark O’Reilly’s first visit back to big time cable news since he was bum rushed out the door at Fox, a network flailing in its attempts to handle the allegations against dethroned CEO Roger Ailes.
While the itinerary for the interview has yet to be released, it’s tough to believe it won’t include O’Reilly’s perspective on his dismissal, as well as the PR firestorm that still surrounds him. And it’s certainly an interesting venue. While O’Reilly spent more time going after “liberals” over on MSNBC, some CNN pundits were also targets of his own special brand of vitriol.
O’Reilly gloried in his role of superior adversary during his two decades at Fox, and he still has many on the conservative side of American politics who are ready to forgive and forget. But how many, exactly? That’s a question O’Reilly needs to answer if he is ever going to begin getting his career back on track. How much have these allegations really hurt his brand? Could they have even strengthened that brand among some of his fans? It’s possible. There are more than a few out there vocally defending O’Reilly on social media and on right-leaning political blogs.
The narrative that all of this was a hit job, a frame-up to knock out O’Reilly is gaining some traction among the true believers on the right. And that has many smaller conservative outlets very interested in seeing if they can land the former Fox pundit. Both One America News and Sinclair Broadcasting have been reportedly interested in earning O’Reilly’s services.
But the question remains: How will the Bill O’Reilly brand work without the major megaphone of Fox backing him up? The answer to that question could be a litmus test not only on O’Reilly but also on the state of media consumption today.