The person with the most power to decide O’Reilly’s fate is Rupert Murdoch. In the wake of Roger Ailes’s ouster last summer, Murdoch stepped in and assumed day-to-day control of Fox News, working out of the office suite that formerly belonged to Ailes. According to Fox News insiders, Murdoch’s instinct will be to protect O’Reilly as long as possible. His show generates more than $100 million in revenue per year, and while advertiser boycotts appear damaging on the surface, in many cases the companies in question shift ads to different parts of the Fox schedule. “The impact of these boycotts can be cosmetic,” one insider told me. “The feeling is let’s keep our heads down and hope this blows over.”
But pure business logic could also lead to O’Reilly’s toppling. Much has changed since his previous controversies. His scandal is playing out at a moment when the wheels seem to be coming off Fox News as current and former employees file gender- and racial-discrimination lawsuits. As one of the network’s original stars, O’Reilly is a public face of a toxic culture that Ailes built over 20 years.