Several major companies have stopped advertising on "The O'Reilly Factor" over reports of sexual harassment charges against the host, Bill O'Reilly. The Fox News show is the most watched cable news program in the US.
"The O'Reilly Factor" had lost about a dozen advertisers by Tuesday, with German carmaker BMW, Japan's Mitsubishi and US-based insurance company Allstate pulling their ads from the show. Other big names included Toyota, Mercedes Benz, and British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
The controversy started with the New York Times publishing an investigative article on the show's conservative host Bill O'Reilly. According to the Saturday report, O'Reilly and Fox News paid $13 million dollars (12.2 million euro) to five different women, settling harassment suits and allegations of inappropriate conduct against the TV personality. Only two of the cases were previously known.
"While it's hard to tell what the facts are, the allegations are disturbing," Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland said.
"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."
No 'merit' to accusations
With Fox News deciding to stand by its biggest star, the cable network faces increasing pressure from companies and groups such as The National Organization for Women (NOW) who asked for O'Reilly to be fired.
"The reported use of his powerful position to repeatedly manipulate women reveals a cruel misogyny that runs to the core of his character," the group said.
The latest controversy comes after Fox News was forced to oust its chief Roger Ailes, a close confidante of the company's founder Rupert Murdoch, over similar charges. The NOW also asked for an independent investigation into the "culture of sexual harassment" at Fox News.
On Monday, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky filed a separate sexual harassment suit against Ailes.
O'Reilly believes that the claims against him have no "merit," the Fox News said in a statement.
Most watched in US
The 67-year-old TV celebrity is the network's top revenue producer, according to research by the Kantar Media firm.
His long-running show remains the most watched cable news program in the US, averaging around four million viewers.
"The O'Reilly factor" reportedly brought Fox over $178 million in ad dollars in 2015 and $118.6 million in the first nine months of 2016.
The network was working with its "partners to address the concerns" around the sexual harassment suit, Fox News told the media.
"At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other (Fox) programs," said Paul Rittenberg, executive vice president for ad sales.
dj/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)