NEW YORK — Embattled Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly, who announced he’s vacationing starting Wednesday and returning April 24, hasn’t taken off this much time consecutively in March or April for at least 10 years, an examination of his show’s transcripts revealed.
O’Reilly said he likes to take vacation around this time and that he booked this year’s break months ago. That would appear to stave off stories that the cable host had been pressured to make himself scarce for a while. His show has seen an advertiser exodus since reports emerged of settlements reached with five women to keep quiet about harassment accusations.
Fox would not discuss whether network executives influenced the duration or timing of his break. O’Reilly’s announcement immediately set off speculation about whether cable television’s most popular host will return at all.
“I grab some vacation, because it’s spring and Easter time,” O’Reilly said Tuesday. “Last fall, I booked a trip that should be terrific.”
Transcripts over the last decade show O’Reilly has taken at least some time off in March or April every year, although usually they amount to long weekends. He took a week off at the end of March last year. He appeared to be away for six consecutive days in April 2010, although not every night’s transcript was available for that time. O’Reilly usually takes vacation time in August, too.
Eric Bolling hosted in O’Reilly’s absence last year. Laura Ingraham, Juan Williams, Michelle Malkin and John Kasich have all subbed on “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Dozens of advertisers announced they would not run commercials on “The O’Reilly Factor” following a New York Times story on April 2 that the five women have been paid a total of $13 million in settlements. O’Reilly has denied any wrongdoing.
The amount of ad time by paying customers on his show has since been cut by more than half, an analysis by Kantar Media revealed.
The stories haven’t cut into his audience, though. “The O’Reilly Factor” averaged more viewers the week after the report than it did the week before, the Nielsen company said. O’Reilly this year has seen the biggest ratings of his career.
Joe Muto, a former Fox producer who used to work with O’Reilly, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the vacation was O’Reilly’s idea.
The pugnacious O’Reilly is used to political attacks, but is bothered when criticism reaches the broader culture, noting last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” skit with Alec Baldwin impersonating O’Reilly and John Oliver suggesting on HBO that he wanted to buy ad time on O’Reilly’s show.