On Wednesday afternoon, after a day of reports that Fox News was preparing to fire O’Reilly, it became official. Two weeks after the New York Times reported on O’Reilly’s decades-long history of alleged sexual harassment, Fox dropped its top-rated host.
It was hard to imagine how Fox could have continued with O’Reilly after the latest suit, but that doesn’t make his firing less shocking. For better and (almost entirely) for worse, O’Reilly has defined what Fox News is, and has also led the network in ratings.
O’Reilly will be replaced by Tucker Carlson, who is currently on a meteoric comeback. A decade after getting owned by Jon Stewart on Crossfire, his show has been a ratings hit in Megyn Kelly’s former 9 p.m. slot. The question facing Fox is who will replace Carlson. Until recently, the show’s weeknight slate was remarkably consistent for cable television: O’Reilly at 8, Kelly at 9, and Hannity at 10. Now two of those three stalwarts are gone. Fox has reportedly pushed its panel show The Five from 5 p.m. into Carlson’s 9 p.m. slot, but it’s not clear if it will stay there.