Fair and Balanced

Just hours before being unceremoniously dumped by Fox News over his decades-long sexual harassment escapades, conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly was part of a VIP group that shook hands with Pope Francis at the Vatican. It was not a formal audience, and was a routine event, notable only for the sight of the self-proclaimed family man and good Catholic demonstrating that even a hypocritical wife-choking sexual predator can call on the successor of St. Peter if he knows the right people.

But the encounter with the Pontiff may have been more symbolic than it seemed, as Fox News is poised to become the successor to the Catholic Church as the world champion denier of sexual misconduct and its costs of settling cases with victims, including its unconscionable payoffs of $25 million to O’Reilly and $40 million to former Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, soar to amounts that rival the contributions by the ethically challenged to the feebly attended, but outrageously endowed,Trump inauguration events.

But, as with the Church, the question for Fox is whether they can move beyond their image as an intimidating workplace for their leggy blonde workforce and regain their clout as the right-wing alternative facts mouthpiece. Even as the O’Reilly scandal metastasized, his ratings soared, and the rebirth of Tucker Carson seems to offer a seamless succession to O’Reilly, whose common man outrage served as much as the personification of the network as anyone.

Even as he was being canned, O’Reilly was praised by the network as “one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news.” The loss of Megyn Kelly, once thought to represent the future of the station, has barely registered as a speed bump. But, when even Sarah Palin says that the corporate culture at Fox must change in its treatment of women, larger forces may be afoot. And with the imminent ascension of the more moderate Murdoch sons to their father Rupert’s throne, it seems unlikely that Fox will not adapt to a time when women are not intimidated into silence over the lecherous advances of powerful bosses.

But, at the end of the day, it was unadulterated crassness, not principle, that drove the O’Reilly dismissal, as social media and the abandonment of key advertisers left the Murdochs no choice. I suspect that the undiminished support of Fox News’ aging loyalists will remain steadfast, at least for a while. After all, they elected a president who lacks any pretension of being a moral paradigm. Why should they expect more from mere entertainers?

Originally published at gnallornothing.tumblr.com.