What will Bill O’Reilly do next?
Wealthy, still outspoken, still primed for the fight, still very much the O’Reilly everyone has seen, heard, endured, or admired the past 20 years, he’s all still here. But 21st Century Fox did not release details of other sexual harassment claims made against him, and those — along with the $13 million payout made over the years to settle other harassment claims — will almost certainly follow him wherever he makes his next move. They could preclude the obvious next move — another TV role.
Let’s sort through the options:
Cable News: If Fox made a determination that he should no longer be in its employ, then other cable networks — particularly those owned by publicly traded companies — may well come to the same determination. If not, they would have to explain why. Publicly traded companies answer — at least theoretically — to shareholders, who might well object to someone fired elsewhere on sexual harassment allegations. Media companies (also theoretically) answer to employees and to consumers. They also may resist O’Reilly, particularly female ones.
Internet: The World Wide Web is welcoming to anyone, and was the second act for Glenn Beck and even Larry King. O’Reilly could set up a portal, start streaming, and head off into the wild blue yonder of internet journalism/pontificating. But O’Reilly’s comfort zone is television. It also offered him an exclusive perch in an exclusive neighborhood — beachfront property, to extend the analogy. By contrast, the Internet’s the equivalent of a post office box. Also consider O’Reilly’s natural constituency: Older viewers who like to watch their “Factor” at the same time every night, and who might find the internet a less appealing — or more forbidding — place to get their O’Reilly fix. His audience’s average age is the same age as O’Reilly, by the way (67).
Speaking/touring: O’Reilly has a series of speaking engagements (with Dennis Miller and Jesse Watters), including one at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury in June, and at least so far, those appear to still be going forward. “The Spin Stops Here!” has even been sold out for weeks. A speaking career? Why not? Here’s one reason: It’s exhausting. Another: It’s part-time.
Books: O’Reilly’s a publishing machine and has been for years. The “Killing” series, “Culture Warrior,” “A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity,” “Old School: Life in the Sane Lane” (his most recent), even a children’s book. He has regular co-authors he works with (Martin Dugard) and longtime publisher Henry Holt has indicated it will stand by him.
Politics: O’Reilly has long called himself a “problem solver,” so why not solve problems the old-fashioned way, through the electorate? The harassment allegations remain an impediment but hardly a deal-breaker. Two presidents over the past quarter century were also dogged by harassment allegations, after all.
But O’Reilly — the self-styled populist who claims allegiance to no party — has usually said no to this idea. By disposition, O’Reilly is not a politician. He glad-hands no one, kisses no babies. Moreover, “compromise” is not in his vocabulary.
Retirement: The obvious option and the instantly obtainable one. O’Reilly has mused about this for years, but no one ever took him seriously. He once told Newsday he had considered retirement — and that was in 2005. In his own words, O’Reilly is a lunchpail guy. He comes to work because he likes to come to work. Retirement might be a pleasing option for some 67-year-olds, not for this 67-year-old.