Through crisis after crisis, shake-up after shake-up, one thing about Fox News Channel is apparent: Its viewers aren’t going anywhere.
The network has endured more than a year of firings, lawsuits, management turnover, resignations of its top stars and more changes to its prime-time lineup than a public-access station. And yet it continues to be cable’s most popular attraction, defying predictions of its decline, let alone its demise.
If recent history is any guide, the latest whiff of scandal at Fox won’t make much difference, either. The network on Saturday suspended Eric Bolling, one of its rising stars, following a news report that he texted lewd photos to three female colleagues several years ago. Fox said the allegations are under investigation. In the meantime, it has scrubbed Bolling, Soviet-style, from some of its social media accounts, raising questions about whether he’ll be back.
The accusation was another iteration of what one former Fox commentator, in an unrelated lawsuit, described as “a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult” at Fox at odds with the network’s usual promotion of traditional values.
Since July 2016, the news channel has lost its founder and chief mastermind (the late Roger Ailes, forced out amid sexual harassment allegations); its biggest star (Bill O’Reilly, same reason); its second-biggest star (Megyn Kelly, alienated by Ailes and O’Reilly); its fourth-biggest attraction (Greta Van Susteren, contract dispute); and its co-president (Bill Shine, named as an Ailes enabler in harassment complaints). Charles Payne, the host of a Fox Business Network program, was suspended last month amid more sexual-harassment allegations (Payne, Shine, Bolling and O’Reilly have denied the claims against them, as did Ailes).
What’s more, Fox is still fending off residual harassment lawsuits from the Ailes era, a racial-discrimination class-action claim, and a federal investigation of its accounting of payments to former employees; some of those funds settled harassment claims. (Fox and its parent company, 21 Century Fox, have said they are cooperating with investigators).
And still, its viewers have persisted.
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