Born in New York City in 1949, Bill O'Reilly is a talk-show host and journalist who began his television career in local news outlets around the country. As a correspondent, he won several Emmy Awards before moving to Inside Edition, a popular "infotainment" program. When FOX News launched, he was hired to do his own program, called The O'Reilly Factor, which featured conservative commentary and interviews and quickly became the most watched cable news program. The host also wrote a series of best-selling books, including Killing Lincoln (2011) and Killing Jesus (2013), but faced challenges to his professional career with the revelation of his sexual harassment settlements in 2017.
Early Life and Education
William James O'Reilly Jr. was born on September 10, 1949, in New York City, to parents William James O'Reilly Sr. and Angela "Ann" O'Reilly. When he was a boy, his family moved to Long Island, where O'Reilly attended Catholic school. After high school he studied history at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, spending his junior year abroad at the University of London. In 1971 he graduated with honors and moved to Miami, where he taught high school for two years before enrolling at Boston University to pursue a master's degree in broadcast journalism.
O'Reilly's television news career began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and included stints at local news stations in Dallas, Denver, Portland and Boston. In 1980 he returned to New York to anchor his own program, and then joined CBS as a news correspondent. In 1986 he moved to ABC News, where, during his three-year tenure, he received two Emmy Awards and two National Headliner Awards for excellence in reporting.
O'Reilly's career took a turn in 1989 when he joined the nationally syndicated show Inside Edition. For the next five years, Inside Edition was the highest-rated "infotainment" program in America. After six years as its anchor, O'Reilly left Inside Edition to earn yet another master's degree, this time in public administration at Harvard University.
Upon leaving Harvard, O'Reilly was hired by the start-up FOX News Channel to host his own show, The O'Reilly Factor. With hard-driving interviews and blunt commentary, O'Reilly dealt with the nation's hottest issues in an atmosphere described by him and his show's producers as the "No Spin Zone." In 2001, The O'Reilly Factor became the country's most watched cable news program. Shortly thereafter, O'Reilly expanded his media presence to include a weekly syndicated newspaper column and a national radio show called The Radio Factor, which ran from 2002 to 2009.
With his direct style of commentary, O'Reilly became increasingly known for his controversial statements. One such example occurred during a discussion on the talk show The View, during which he said, "Muslims killed us on 9/11." Co-host Whoopi Goldberg condemned the statement, pointing out that O'Reilly should have been more specific, rather than just generalizing the attackers as "Muslims." Goldberg and fellow co-host Joy Behar walked off the set. Barbara Walters, the primary host of The View, did not approve of the walk-out, but did not condone O'Reilly's statement either. O'Reilly defended his comments.
When not in front of the TV cameras, O'Reilly writes books. His published titles include the nonfiction best sellers The O'Reilly Factor (2000) and The No Spin Zone (2001) as well as the novel Those Who Trespass (1998). He has also released the controversial historical thrillers Killing Lincoln (2011) and Killing Kennedy (2012), which sold millions, topped the New York Times best-sellers list, and were adapted into a movie by the History Channel.
In the fall of 2013, O'Reilly released Killing Jesus. Despite the book's title, the author insisted that it focused more on history than it did on religion or spirituality. He followed with the titles Killing Patton (2014), Killing Reagan (2015) and Killing the Rising Sun (2016). In 2016, O'Reilly also teamed with James Patterson for the children's book Give Please a Chance, and the following year he examined American culture wars with Old School.
Personal Life and Harassment Charges
In 1996, O'Reilly married Maureen McPhilmy, and together they had a daughter, Madeline, and a son, Spencer. A contentious separation took place in 2010, however, with a divorce following the next year. McPhilmy later alleged that O'Reilly used his connections and financial-donor influence with the Nassau County Police Department to launch an internal affairs investigation into McPhilmy's Nassau County detective boyfriend, whom she later married.
In 2004, Andrea Mackris, one of his show's associate producers, filed a lawsuit against O'Reilly for sexual harassment. She alleged that O'Reilly made several sexually explicit phone calls to her in which he described his fantasies to her and advised her to use a vibrator. The New York Daily News reported that O'Reilly agreed to pay Mackris anywhere from $2 million to $10 million to settle the suit. O'Reilly denied all accusations and stated that he did what he needed to do in order to close the matter in the best interests of his family.
In early spring 2017, a story in The New York Times revealed that, along with Andrea Mackris, O'Reilly had reached settlements with four other women over allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior. The women, who either worked for O’Reilly or appeared on his program, cited a pattern of verbal abuse, unwanted advances and lewd comments and phone calls.
The news struck a nerve with sponsors, as dozens of companies pulled ads from The O’Reilly Factor in the following days. Additionally, the host faced the possibility of discipline from bosses at 21st Century Fox, who had ousted Fox News chairman Roger Ailes over similar complaints the previous summer.
21st Century Fox, parent company of Fox News, reportedly enlisted the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to investigate at least one accusation of sexual harassment, though O'Reilly spokesperson Mark Fabiani downplayed the significance of that development. However, on April 19 2017, Fox News announced that it had dropped O'Reilly from the network. 21st Century Fox issued a statement which read: "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel."
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