Former Fox News tentpole Bill O’Reilly might have a new gig, even as the seven-month-old sexual-harassment scandal that led to his firing continues to unfold.
O’Reilly is in talks with Sinclair Broadcasting, a network of TV stations known for their conservative programming, NBC News reported Thursday. Last week, the New York Times revealed that O’Reilly paid $32 million last January to a longtime Fox News analyst who had accused him of sexual harassment; a month later, Fox renewed his contract for $25 million. In April, amid more accusations, O’Reilly was fired.
The new Times report has not affected Sinclair’s negotiations with O’Reilly, NBC reported. “They took a pause but it didn’t really change anything for them,” they quoted a source as saying.
O’Reilly said the Times article was “politically and financially motivated.”
A Sinclair spokesperson denied the company was in talks with O’Reilly. But NBC reports that talks are well under way and that Sinclair may put O’Reilly on its local stations as part of a two-hour block beginning at 6 or 7 p.m. “They want to do something anti-CNN, anti-MSNBC,” NBC’s source said.
Sinclair owns or operates 173 television stations in the U.S. In May, the company agreed to buy Tribune Media $3.9 billion, which would give Sinclair control of more than 220 stations if the deal is approved. (Ironically, many of Tribune’s stations are Fox affiliates.)
Sinclair, the nation’s largest TV broadcaster, is known for inserting “must-run” conservative segments into local programming, which clearly favored Trump in the 2016 election. It currently covers 38 percent of American homes, and its Tribune buy would expand its reach to 72 percent.
Last December, the Washington Post reported that Sinclair “gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign” while airing negative stories on Hillary Clinton. Sinclair Broadcasting has donated heavily to Republican causes and has inserted itself into presidential elections before: In 2004, Sinclair planned to air a documentary critical of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam military service. When controversy erupted, the company ultimately ran a news program instead of the documentary on some of its stations.