For Fox, bottom line was the only factor

Bill O’Reilly is out in a major victory for women’s rights and an acknowledgement by Fox News of the clear wrongs he committed over many years while bloviating from moral high ground as the cable giant’s top-rated host.

Well, at least the first part is true.

O’Reilly was unceremoniously dumped yesterday while vacationing in Italy. The end came a little more than two weeks after the New York Times reported that five women had received payouts totalling $13 million from O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, in exchange for agreeing not to pursue litigation or speak out about allegations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.

But the idea that the man who presided over The O’Reilly Factor and its “No Spin Zone” was taken down because he violated some standard of probity at Fox or because the network responded to complaints that he was a boorish slug is wishful thinking.

“The decision was based on profit, plain and simple,” writes Christine Emba in the Washington Post. “If keeping on a serial harasser had seemed more lucrative than letting him go, they would have done so. Why should we congratulate the network on taking weeks to be forced into doing what it should have done years ago?”

The most remarkable thing about O’Reilly’s departure, she says, is how long it took to happen and how little it mattered to Fox that the company first started paying out settlements for sexual harassment charges against its top commentator 15 years ago.

But the $13 million in payouts to O’Reilly’s accusers and his own $18 million annual salary paled compared to the nearly half a billion dollars in ad revenue his show reportedly generated from 2014 to 2016 alone. The business case for The Factor couldn’t have been clearer.

But when all those ad dollars started to dry up this month, it wasn’t long before O’Reilly was sent on his way.

As Indira A.R. Lakshmanan writes in the Globe, “in the end, it was money — not morals — that catapulted him out.”

O’Reilly was the flagship offering of the house that Roger Ailes built at Fox under owner Rupert Murdoch. “It’s perhaps a shoddy defense that the TV commentator only behaved according to the rules of that house,” writes Globe critic Ty Burr.

But the rules seem to have changed after Ailes himself was shown the door last year because of “alleged conduct becoming a pig,” says Burr.

If O’Reilly nonetheless felt a degree of invincibility, who could blame him? After all, the man he devoted countless hours to puffing up and defending on his show got elected president after being recorded bragging of far more aggressive acts than the now-deposed TV host and his professions of fantasies involving a loofah (which he apparently mistakenly called “a falafel”).

What’s more, just two weeks ago, the groper-in-chief came to O’Reilly’s defense, declaring in an interview that it was a mistake to settle all those cases. “Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled,” President Trump told the Times. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

State Auditor Suzanne Bump gives a thumbs down to calls for a marijuana oversight agency along the lines of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. She said the Gaming Commission is too independent. “There’s no oversight of what they do,” she said. (State House News)

Green groups give the Baker administration a “C” grade for the second year in a row on its environmental policy record. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini vetoed an ordinance approved by the City Council that would ban public solicitations for money. He said he would approve the ordinance if it granted an exemption to firefighters who run the Fill The Boot drive for muscular dystrophy each year. (Eagle-Tribune)

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch says he will not sign off on a proposal by a pair of city councilors to divert money from the hotel tax for road and sidewalk upgrades. The money has been earmarked for open space uses. (Patriot Ledger)

Lowell wants to begin taxing artists for the supplies they use, and the move is not sitting well with many. (Boston Globe)

An annual survey finds the number of homeless people on Cape Cod and the islands is at a five-year low. (Cape Cod Times)

Cohasset police were inundated with angry calls and threatening comments from gun rights advocates around the country after the department posted a press release on Facebook about confiscating more than 100 unsecured guns from a homeowner who was also charged with desecrating graves. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Dan Shaughnessy probably sums up everything best by writing of a day that started with the suicide of former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez and ended with a visit by the team (minus assorted no-shows, including one Tom Brady) to the White House, “Of all the weird days in Boston sports over the decades, this might have been the weirdest.” (Boston Globe)

Emirates Airlines cuts flights to the United States in the wake of security restrictions imposed by the Trump administration that have dampened demand in the Middle East. Daily flights to Boston have been cut from two to one. (NPR)

Out-trumping Trump: Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has proposed new immigration regulations that would have tougher standards for English language, a four-year wait for citizenship, and a test on “Australian values.” (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

The floodgates open on the first day candidates can take out nomination papers as nearly 40 people come forward for this fall’s Boston municipal election for mayor and city council. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The IRS is planning to hire four debt collection agencies to chase delinquent taxpayers, a move critics say could result in abusive and potentially illegal tactics being applied. (New York Times)

Google, the biggest web advertising company in the world, is planning to build an ad blocker into its Google Chrome web browser. (ars technica)

Apple says it plans to make its phones from recycled materials. (Fortune)

U.S. News & World Report breaks out the nine “most loved” stocks of the White House after looking through the financial disclosure forms of Trump administration officials. But the list is no real mystery, with the likes of Microsoft, Pfizer, Coca Cola, and Apple among the investments. D-uh.

West Mass, a brand name for tourism and economic development in western Massachusetts, is put on hold after critics pan it. (MassLive)

Today, April 20, is marijuana’s high holiday. (Associated Press)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Partners HealthCare has agreed to acquire one of Rhode Island’s biggest hospital operators, Care New England Health System.

With a mixed record on opioids (according to Richard Parr and Hannah Chanatry of the MassINC Polling Group), Gov. Charlie Baker is joining a White House task force to focus on the problem. (CommonWealth)

John E. McDonough and William Seligman report on bending the Medicaid cost curve with accountable care organizations. (CommonWealth)

The deans of the state’s four medical schools decry proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health budget, calling it a “textbook example of being penny-wise and pound-foolish,” with researchers on the brink of huge breakthroughs in understanding lots of serious diseases. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

A Salem News editorial endorses upcoming weekend shutdowns of rail service into Boston but calls for a rethinking of commuter rail in general and gives some support to US Rep. Seth Moulton’s push for a rail link between North and South Stations. The editorial also cites a recent article in CommonWealth by Andy Monat of Transit Matters envisioning what commuter rail could become.

The state’s entire congressional delegation signs a letter urging the MBTA to negotiate with a machinists union rather than turn to privatizing their duties. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

After a year of snake hysteria, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife shelved a plan to create a timber rattlesnake colony on an island in the Quabbin Reservoir. (Telegram & Gazette)

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey write a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urging the agency to back off its approval of tree cutting in Otis State Forest by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. (Berkshire Eagle)

The owners of Brayton Point power station in Somerset are among the bidders to provide a bulk purchase of electricity for an aggregation of 23 towns in southeastern Massachusetts covering more than 100,000 customers, one of the largest aggregation pacts in the country. (Herald News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The state’s rate of inmate suicide, put in the spotlight again with the death of Aaron Hernandez,  is more than three times the national average. (Boston Globe)

A Herald editorial decries as “oddly giddy” the reaction of the state ACLU to the dismissal of more than 20,000 drug cases tainted by the work of disgraced state lab chemist Annie Dookhan.

The Stockbridge police chief proposes that his office have limited involvement with federal immigration authorities. (Berkshire Eagle)

A nonprofit summer camp in Mashpee could lose its accreditation and its affiliation with the 4-H program after its executive director was arrested in a sting operation for allegedly offering to pay for sex with two undercover Barnstable police officers. (Cape Cod Times)

MEDIA

Meet the Author

Dan Kennedy thinks the future of Fox News Channel is “very much in doubt” following the dismissal of Bill O’Reilly. (Media Nation)

Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson sees parallels between O’Reilly and Aaron Hernandez.