Bill O’Reilly’s ouster from Fox News Wednesday — nine months after similarly lurid charges of sexual harassment forced the resignation of Roger Ailes, the Fox chief executive — has opened another window into sexual abuse of women at Fox and in the workplace generally.
The serial nature of the alleged abuse, as well as Fox’s response to it, is also a reminder that exposing wrongdoing is no guarantee of change.
When Fox said on Wednesday that it was severing ties with Mr. O’Reilly after a “thorough and careful review of the allegations,” it neglected to note that the scrutiny was not prompted by the allegations themselves — which the company already knew about — but by the defections of dozens of advertisers from “The O’Reilly Factor” and a drop in the company’s stock price. Fox heaped praise on Mr. O’Reilly in announcing his departure. In all, the company has paid at least $85 million to resolve sexual abuse scandals involving Mr. Ailes and Mr. O’Reilly. Of that sum, as much as $65 million went to the two men, in the form of exit pay.
That’s not deterrence, let alone true accountability. It is, however, a good illustration of the entrenched reality of practices that have discounted, demeaned and derailed women’s work lives for decades. Those practices include not only sexual harassment, but also persistent disparities in pay and promotion, as well as structural impediments — in child care, scheduling and other workplace policies.