Eric Bolling out at Fox News amid sexual harassment investigation
Fox’s statement today was mum on whether the investigation’s still in progress or, if not, what it uncovered. But the timing is noteworthy: Fox Business host Charles Payne was also being investigated for sexual harassment and, like Bolling, had been taken off the air in the meantime. Payne was reinstated by Fox today whereas Bolling left the network. Draw your own conclusions.
I’d say this throws a wrench into his plans to run for Senate eventually but we elected Bill Clinton *and* the guy responsible for the “Access Hollywood” tape president. Maybe Bolling should aim for the White House instead.
“Fox News Channel is canceling ‘The Specialists,’ and Eric Bolling and Fox have agreed to part ways amicably,” the network said in a statement.” We thank Eric for his ten years of service to our loyal viewers and wish him the best of luck.” A Huffington Post report had disclosed allegations that Bolling had sent lewd messages to colleagues via smartphone.
Bolling, a former commodities trader and best-selling author, had been a longtime co-host of “The Five,” and more recently helped launch a new late-afternoon show, “The Fox News Specialists.” He also anchors the Fox News program “Cashin’ In.” Fox News intends to keep Bolling’s co-hosts, Eboni Williams and Kat Timpf, as contributors. The show will be replaced at 5 p.m. eastern with an hour of news coverage for the foreseeable future, with rotating anchors holding down the slot.
On a day when Fox is trying to send the message that it respects its women employees, it’s weird that they’d rather cancel “The Specialists” than let two women co-host it. The idea, I guess, is that Bolling was the marquee name, the populist conservative who spoke for Fox viewers when jousting with Timpf and Williams, but they could have given the latter two a crack at making it work. Imagine how it must feel to be them today, having gotten a big break and landed a 5 p.m. hosting gig on the most watched cable news network in America only to lose it because of Bolling’s alleged misbehavior. The show was slightly more than three months old when the scandal broke. Geez.
Here’s background on the allegations against him if you missed it last month. Either the evidence discovered in Fox’s investigation was damning or they’re very nervous about keeping anyone on staff who’s under even a small cloud of suspicion after the Ailes and O’Reilly fiascos, as parting with another network star like Bolling couldn’t have been easy. I think Fox viewed him as a valuable role player, capable of hosting his own show and of playing in a panel format, and that they had him in mind as insurance just in case Hannity walks given that the two cater to similar audiences. With Bolling gone, there’s no easy fix now at 10 p.m. if Hannity departs. It’s pretty much Tomi Lahren or bust.
What about that splashy $50 million lawsuit Bolling filed last month against the HuffPost reporter who broke the story about his alleged sexting? I haven’t seen any news about it lately but that’s probably for a reason. Winning a defamation suit is exceedingly hard for a public figure, particularly when a reporter has made a diligent effort to find the truth even if his story ends up getting key facts wrong. The reporter, Yashar Ali, claims to have 14 separate sources for the sexting claims. If that’s true, it all but guarantees that Bolling can’t prove “reckless disregard for the truth” in court, the standard for liability in a case involving a public figure. And what about that mind-boggling $50 million number? I recommend this post by a New York tort lawyer arguing that complaints in New York aren’t supposed to enumerate damages at all; Bolling seems to have gotten away with it because he filed a “summons and notice,” not a more traditional summons and complaint, and there seems to be a loophole for putting a dollar amount on damages under New York law in the case of the former. The strategy may have been to try to spook Ali and HuffPost (as well as any other potential accusers) by throwing an enormous number at them up front and hoping they ran away from the story. Hasn’t worked yet. And now, with Fox letting Bolling go, it almost certainly won’t. I wonder if/when the suit will be quietly withdrawn.