Fox News announced Thursday that it has parted ways with its top-rated host, Bill O'Reilly, in the midst of a spiraling sexual harassment scandal. According to a statement from the network, O'Reilly's departure is "effective immediately."
"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," parent company 21st Century Fox said in a statement.
Beginning Monday, the day O'Reilly was scheduled to return from a two-week vacation, Tucker Carlson will take over O'Reilly's 8 p.m. timeslot. The Five will move into Carlson's previously-held 9 p.m. slot beginning Monday.
Earlier Wednesday, New York magazine reported that one of the issues being worked out between Fox and O'Reilly was whether the host would be allowed to return to say a proper goodbye to his viewers. It appears that that will not happen. (Dana Perino and Greg Gutfield will host The Factor for the remainder of this week.)
The O'Reilly Factor host became increasingly toxic after the New York Times reported that O'Reilly and/or Fox News have paid at least five women to not pursue legal action or speak publicly about their sexual harassment allegations against him. The payouts have totaled about $13 million.
The company previously stood by O'Reilly through public scandal before, even renewing his contract earlier this month. But now, in the wake of advertisers jumping ship and public opinion turning against O'Reilly (even among The O'Reilly Factor's viewers, according to a survey by Morning Consult), Fox News is putting the political commentator, who has been with the network since its inception in 1996, out to pasture.
O'Reilly released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying it is "tremendously disheartening" to leave the network under the current circumstances.
"Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed into building Fox into the dominant news network in television," O'Reilly said. "It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But it is the unfortunate reality that many in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel."
O'Reilly's axing continues a streak of misfortune for cable's top-rated news network, which lost its founder and CEO Roger Ailes last summer in a similar sexual harassment scandal and saw the departure of Megyn Kelly earlier this year.
Editors note: The story was changed to reflect O'Reilly's statement to the media.