New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters hinted on Thursday's Morning Joe that Fox News's Sean Hannity be fired next after the network showed anchor Bill O'Reilly the door, Wednesday, in response to sexual harassment allegations. He lectured, "I think you have to look at somebody like Sean Hannity and question whether or not his — almost propaganda-like attitude and programs every night is going to be acceptable in the minds of the family, which is clearly trying to shift the network."
Moments beforehand, Peters said: "It wasn't just a dollar figure thing here. Because those advertisers weren't really leaving Fox, just leaving The O'Reilly Factor and shifting to other parts of the network. The question is whether or not this is a broader change and the influence that the Murdoch children who were long suspicious of Roger Ailes."
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Peters was part of a panel blasting not only O'Reilly, but also the network's existance. "The presence of Fox News and the presence of O'Reilly, the most popular cable show host on that channel, on any channel actually, to be honest about it, had an extraordinary impact on further dividing America politically, categorizing America politically," political commentator Mike Barnicle said.
Barnicle added, "It gave people who felt the media had become distant from them a place to go."
"My friends and I would watch news and just laugh at how culturally isolated it was, and Fox was a place for people to go that didn't want to be looked down on and mocked and scorned the way that they were when there were three networks and two national newspapers," anchor Joe Scarborough said. "That is the reality. Did they take it too far? Yeah, but there's a reason Fox News was Fox News."
Political pundit and NPR contributor Cokie Roberts chimed into the bashing. "The idea that women could bring him down by just telling their stories is a very powerful message."
Here is the transcript of the April 20th exchange:
6:30:12 AM – 6:41:31 AM [11 min., 19 sec.]
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: : Yesterday Fox announced, quote, 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. The decision came after revelations from The New York Times that he and Fox parent, 21st Century Fox, settled multiple sexual harassment complaints to the tune of $13 million. O'Reilly put out a statement that reads in part, quote, it is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims, but that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride and the unprecedented success we achieved. With my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News channel.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mike Barnicle, this is more than a story about TV, more than a few people said last night, this is a guy who had the Number One show on cable news for 15 years that in large part I think redefined what the Republican Party was, what the conservative movement was, along with Fox News. Fox News over the past 15 years has been basically the heart of the Republican national party.
MIKE BARNICLE: Joe, you can't underestimate the political cultural impact that Fox News and Bill O'Reilly has had on this country. It's much larger than a media story. The presence of Fox News and the presence of O'Reilly, the most popular cable show host on that channel, on any channel actually, to be honest about it, had an extraordinary impact on further dividing America politically, categorizing America politically. It gave people who felt the media had become distant from them a place to go.
SCARBOROUGH: Mike, let me just tell you, the media had become distant from them.
BARNICLE: I'm not arguing that.
SCARBOROUGH: My friends and I would watch news and just laugh at how culturally isolated it was, and Fox was a place for people to go that didn't want to be looked down on and mocked and scorned the way that they were when there were three networks and two national newspapers. That is the reality. Did they take it too far? Yeah, but there's a reason Fox News was Fox News.
COKIE ROBERTS: The reason it was successful.
SCARBOROUGH: There's a reason it was successful.
BARNICLE: The key to their success was when people felt they had found a home politically, ideologically, culturally at Fox News, they stayed there, they didn't leave the house. They weren't channel surfing. The incredible part of the story today is the pace, the swiftness of change that came about within Fox News based upon, what, you'd have to say money. Once those advertisers left Bill O'Reilly, boom, he was gone.
ROBERTS: But really, we have to talk about the fact that the advertisers went away because of women. The fact is that when I started in the workplace sexual harassment was just part of the day.
ROBERTS: You had to put up with it. But the idea that women could bring him down by just telling their stories is a very powerful message.
JEREMY PETERS: It wasn't just a dollar figure thing here. Because those advertisers weren't really leaving Fox, just leavin The O'Reilly Factor and shifting to other parts of the network. The question is whether or not this is a broader change and the influence that the Murdoch children who were long suspicious of Roger Ailes. My friends managed to get this quote from Matthew Freud, married to Elizabeth Murdoch: I am by no means alone within the family or company being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes sustained disregard of the journalistic morals that we hold dear.
SCARBOROUGH: Do we make over the entire network? Is anybody else in the family's crosshairs right now?
PETERS: I think you have to look at somebody like Sean Hannity and question whether or not his -- almost propaganda-like attitude and programs every night is going to be acceptable in the minds of the family, which is clearly trying to shift the network.
SCARBOROUGH: It's also confusing because he does it in Russian. Go ahead.
KATTY KAY: It would be nice to think that Fox News had fired Bill O'Reilly for moral reasons. After Roger Ailes left the network last December, they continued to pay settlements in order to keep women quiet accusing Bill O'Reilly of sexual harassment. I think what's behind this is Rupert Murdoch wants to buy Sky News in the UK. There's a review coming up in the middle of May and will look at, quote, whether the new owners are fit and proper. They didn't want sexual allegations in the same sentence as Fox News.
ROBERTS: I love the fit and proper, first of all. I think it's a wonderful way of describing. But the fact that fit and proper is not appropriate to sexual harassment -- you can't be fit and proper and having sexual harassment, that's new.
BRZEZINSKI: There may be ridiculous reasons, and business reasons and money driven reasons. But this will prompt a shift of Fox News which seemed to be locked in the early '90s. We've been in this business for a long time. Almost 30 years if not more.
KAY: Me, too.
BRZEZINSKI: I don't get that kind of behavior that you hear about at Fox News. It did seem to be extreme. In the early years I definitely saw a lot of it. It wasn't sexual harassment. There are specific cases here in the Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes saga that are serious and they stand alone. But I think all women sort of felt sexual pressure to look, to sound, to be hot, to wear certain things.
ROBERTS: There were certain people you knew not to be alone in a room with.
KAY: In the elevator with. Every woman knew it, the elevator could be a dangerous place.
What I don't like about what Bill O'Reilly said in his statement -- lots it' the implication that this is a function of being in the public eye. The vast majority of men in the public eye are not accused of repeated cases of sexual harassment. It's not true.
MIKE BARNICLE: There's one other element that should not be let go. It is this. Within that building, I'm told repeatedly be, many people that Bill O'Reilly was universally loathed. He had no net to catch him once all this began, no one to explain -- not that you can explain his behavior. He was also a hypocrite on air as opposed to off air. Those two factors, the human nature aspect of this story is almost equally compelling as to his fall.
BRZEZINSKI: Big picture, Fox News, the conservative alternative, Joe --
SCARBOROUGH: I know we're all focusing on Bill O'Reilly and what's happening for the past two weeks. You have to look at what's happened over the past 20 years. When I said that they rewrote the landscape for news, I wasn't just saying that to say, oh, they've divided America, I can show you some left-wing outfits that have divided America. So that's just BS. If that's your takeaway from 20 years of Fox News. It was such a part. It still is such a part of people's life outside of Manhattan, Washington, the coast. Cokie, I'm sure when you go south, I know. When I go south it's in every --
ROBERTS: Every nail salon.
SCARBOROUGH: Not every nail salon. They turn it on in the morning. My house it was that way, my parents' house it was that way. Yes, we're talking about what happened over the past couple weeks. Again, Peter, they not only revolutionized what happened at Fox News, they revolutionized what happened at television and made people not only in broadcast TV but cable TV and at the big newspapers go, wait a second, there's a part of this story that we are missing and there's a reason why Fox News is crushing all of its competitors.
PETER BAKER: They expanded the market place of ideas, democratized in some ways the media which had been, as you said, monopolized by a few small corporations, media outfits and newspapers. That's a good inning this. There's nothing wrong with that. The downside is if, in fact, we have a country divided by people who watch one network and another network and have completely different sets of facts, can't have an argument because they're dealing with a different starting point. There are views expressed now and allowed to be expressed that had been basically ignored and marginalized for a long time.
PETERS: That's probably what Fox did so well. It was not only what they covered and the way they covered it, but how they told you this is what the other news outfits are not covering and are not telling you, we'll tell you. That I think was such a central part and will remain a central part of what Fox News is to its viewership.
SCARBOROUGH: There's a great piece that we'll get to in The Atlantic. Talked about the cultural continued sense of late night comedians, and if you want to understand why conservatives are resentful of the media, read piece and look at late night comics. That's why Fox News exists. Ann Coulter who I find objectionable -- I'm separating what has happened, that part of it. We're talking about the media. We're talking about Fox News as it has fit in this culture.
ROBERTS: It's better for them to be in a position where they are conveyors of ideas and not have all this other stuff.
SCARBOROUGH: I completely agree.
ROBERTS: They can go on and thrive and prosper.
SCARBOROUGH: I completely agree with that. I'm just saying we can't -- we can't see Bill O'Reilly stepping down without looking at what this means, not only for the media landscape, but where we are in 2017, what it means for the political landscape. This is an earthquake.