Mercedes-Benz said Monday that it has “reassigned” its advertisements on “The O’Reilly Factor” following a report about five settlements with women who alleged sexual harassment or verbal abuse by the show’s host, Bill O’Reilly.
In a statement provided to CNNMoney, a spokesperson for the car company called the allegations against O’Reilly “disturbing.”
“Yes, we had advertising running on The O’Reilly Factor (we run on most major cable news shows) and it has been reassigned in the midst of this controversy,” said Donna Boland, the manager of corporate communications at Mercedes-Benz. “The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.”
It’s not clear yet whether other companies will follow Mercedes-Benz’s lead. CNNMoney reached out to more than 20 companies and brands that have advertised on the “O’Reilly Factor” to ask for a response to a report published by the New York Times over the weekend.
The Times reported that settlements totaling $13 million had been reached with five women who accused O’Reilly of inappropriate behavior.
One of them, Lexus, provided a statement to CNNMoney in which it said, “The Lexus ads appearing on the O’Reilly Factor are part of a wide ranging media package, with ads appearing on a variety of cable television programs. We take our duties as a responsible advertiser seriously, and seek to partner with organizations who share our company culture and philosophy of respect for all people. We will continue to monitor the situation and will take any appropriate action through our media buying partners.”
A spokesperson for Jenny Craig said that the organization “condemns any and all forms of sexual harassment,” but declined to comment further.
“As a matter of corporate policy, we do not publicly comment on our advertising strategy,” the spokesperson said. “What I can tell you is that we are constantly evaluating our media buys to maximize the efficiency of our corporate investment and effectively reach our target audience.”
Another organization, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, responded to clarify that it “does not have a partnership or a sponsorship with Fox News.”
“Our television advertising is purchased through an advertising network where the advertisements are placed on multiple cable television channels and shows,” a CFP spokesperson said. “As our spring flight is winding down, we will no longer have any placements on Fox News.”
The dog food brand Nutrish declined to comment “on anything related to our media buy.”
Spokespeople for other companies contacted by CNNMoney said they were looking into the matter.
A spokesperson for Fox News has not responded to a request for comment.
O’Reilly is the most watched host in cable news. His nightly program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” reportedly generated $446 million in advertising revenue between 2014 and 2016. He’s also a perennial best-selling author whose books have been adapted for television.
In short, O’Reilly is a one man multi-media juggernaut, a star asset for the business associates and sponsors in his orbit.
The show has obvious appeal for advertisers. For the 14th year in a row, “The O’Reilly Factor” finished 2016 as the no. 1 program in cable news.
It’s also coming off its highest-rated quarter in history, breaking cable news records with four million viewers a night during the first three months of 2017.
O’Reilly is a similar draw in the publishing world, where he has established himself as one of the most successful non-fiction authors in the world.
Henry Holt & Company, O’Reilly’s publisher, said last year that his “Killing” franchise — a series of historic blockbusters that examine the deaths or attempted assassinations of various figures from Jesus to JFK — had sold 14.5 million copies. Some of the “Killing” books have been adapted into made-for-TV films by National Geographic, which is part of the portfolio of cable channels of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox.
Neither Henry Holt nor National Geographic responded to a request for comment.
The 2015 adaptation of “Killing Jesus” set a ratings record for National Geographic. “Killing the Rising Sun,” the latest installment of the series about the United States’ bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — has been on the New York Times’ best seller list for 28 weeks.
It’s a safe bet that O’Reilly’s new book “Old School,” a manifesto of sorts on the author’s personal beliefs, will crack that list soon. The book contrasts adherents to “traditional values” with “snowflakes,” the left-of-center forces O’Reilly believes to be too politically correct and sensitive.
At a press conference on Monday, the attorney Lisa Bloom, who is representing one of the accusers featured in the Times’ report, took issue with O’Reilly’s claim to be a “target” of lawsuits.
“Bill O’Reilly, you call out whiners as delicate snowflakes,” Bloom said in a statement. “But you’re the one whining now.”