Flowers lined the wet New York City streets this past week in front of Fox News following the networks firing of weeknight talk host, Bill O’Reilly. His career has been marked by controversies, most notably the latest sexual assault accusations that led to his firing.
“It is literally causing chaos. People have been leaving flowers outside of his picture in front of our building as if he died,” said one Fox News employee who asked to be unidentified for the story.
Fox and O’Reilly paid five women a total of at least 13 million, according to the New York Times. Despite controversies regarding O’Reilly’s forthcoming and conservative opinion his show was Fox’s top rated nightly show. Since O’Reilly’s release over 50 advertisers have abandoned his former show and the weeknight time slot has lost over 30 percent viewers since O’Reilly’s departure, according to CNN. This is not the first harassment scandal Fox News has dealt with recently, Roger Ailes former chairman of Fox News was ousted from the media outlet.
“Not that it makes O’Reilly any more acceptable or less ture, but his dismissal from Fox could be a way for Fox to be saving face after the allegations against Roger Ailes,” said BU student and aspiring television host, Alexa Lamana.
O’Reilly is a famous public figure, but before he dominated political coverage he started in Boston, earning his degree from Boston University in 1973 and later earning a distinguished alumni award from the College of Communication in 2001. Students and professors inside the college of communication want the university to consider eliminating his prestigious title.
Boston University professor Anne Donohue worked with O’Reilly at Channel 7 in Boston and says that she did not know of any specific incidents while they worked together at the Boston affiliate, but she did say that he was a guy’s guy and a jokester.
“I absolutely think the university should rescind that award from him. There is absolutely nothing distinguished about his career in the last 20 years. I didn’t think he deserved it in the first place and now we have added the icing on the cake,” said Donohue.
At Boston University students are trying to make their voices heard about Bill O’Reilly, and start a conversation about whether the College of Communication should still recognize him as a distinguished alumni. President of the BU Feminism Organization, Jamie Street, said sexual assault is a serious issue that the university should reexamine his distinguished alumni award if he is guilty of the assault accusations.
“It is very uncommon for women to falsely accuse people of sexual assault because there are multiple women that have come forward,” Street said. “The evidence is stacked against him.”
Despite concerns from students and faculty members, Dean of the College of Communication, Thomas Fiedler says the university will continue to honor Bill O’Reilly as one of the top journalism graduates.
“At this point I don’t see a significant enough or sufficient enough basis for even raising the issue of taking away a distinguished alumni award,” said Fiedler.
Fiedler did not comment on his preference to the opinions of O’Reilly, but he does have copies of a few of Bill O’Reilly’s award winning books on his book shelves.
Other on campus voices such as, journalism student and communication director of BU Republicans, Jake Reiser believes that O’Reilly, despite his harsh opinions at time, believes BU should not remove his distinguished tag.
“It’s not like he is not going to continue being a journalist. He just re-started his podcast back up and he reportedly has big plans for that so it’s not like he is falling from grace and dropping out of the journalism world,” Reiser said.
On Monday April 24, Bill O’Reilly started his No Spin podcast back up on his personal website.
Since April 19, when O’Reilly was fired during his vacation in Italy, he has been very active to keep his brand alive. O’Reilly has not delved into a rhetoric about being fired from Fox, but has commented about the allegations briefly saying, “the truth will come out.”
Dean Fiedler believes that the accusations against O’Reilly should not deter students from achieving their goals as journalists.
“Bill O’Reilly, like other notable alumni such as Howard Stern, have made their careers off of controversial communication and it worked for them,” said Lamana.
Although Boston University administrators have no plans on withdrawing his distinguished alumni award, BU has removed similar awards regarding sexual assault issues. Bill Cosby received an honorary degree from BU, which was removed following Cosby openly admitting to committing sexual actions against teenagers and trying to cover it with monetary supplements.
The women that were paid off by Fox will be represented by lawyer Lisa Bloom. Bloom has started to give these women an avenue to get their story out there. O’Reilly’s legal status against these sexual assault accusations is still unknown, but for the time being Boston University will continue to recognize Bill O’Reilly as one of the distinguished alumni from the College of Communication.