WASHINGTON (AFP) - Major auto brands have decided to pull advertising from a popular Fox News programme following reports of sexual harassment involving host Bill O’Reilly.
Companies dropping advertising with The O’Reilly Factor included BMW North America, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai, according to statements to AFP.
“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.”
The moves came after a New York Times report saying the cable news giant and O’Reilly had paid five women a total of US$13 million (S$18 million) in the cases that span 15 years, in exchange for their silence and agreeing not to pursue litigation against Fox News, a favourite among conservatives.
While two of the cases were previously known, the Times said it had unearthed three more cases of harassment, two of a sexual nature and one alleging verbally abusive behaviour by O’Reilly.
The O’Reilly Factor is the most widely viewed cable news show with an average of 3.98 million viewers in early 2017, according to Adweek.
From January 2015 to September 2016, the programme pulled in some US$297 million in ad revenues, according to the research firm Kantar Media.
A BMW spokesman said the German auto giant was suspending ads for the program “in light of the recent New York Times investigation.”
Hyundai said it had no current ads on the programme but had scheduled some.
The South Korean firm is “reallocating them (to other Fox programmes) due to the recent and disturbing allegations,” according to a statement to AFP.
“As a company we seek to partner with companies and programming that share our values of inclusion and diversity,” Hyundai said.
“We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as we plan future advertising decisions.”
A Toyota spokeswoman said Lexus ads appearing on the O’Reilly Factor were “part of a wide ranging media package, with ads appearing on a variety of cable television programmes” and that the Japanese auto giant would “monitor the situation.”
“We take our duties as a responsible advertiser seriously, and seek to partner with organisations who share our company culture and philosophy of respect for all people,” the statement said.
The reports on O’Reilly came as Fox News and its ousted chief Roger Ailes were hit Monday with a fresh sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female contributor who says she was denied a job after refusing the chairman’s advances.
The lawsuit by Julie Roginsky, a political strategist who was a contributing commentator, came eight months after Ailes, a confidant of the cable network’s founder Rupert Murdoch, was forced out over an earlier harassment suit.