Jeff Christensen / AP

A firestorm of reports from credible journalists surfaced Tuesday, all pointing to the same conclusion: The Murdoch support that has been keeping primetime anchor Bill O'Reilly at the network is waning, and reports could surface by the end of the week that the O'Reilly Factor star will likely not return to his primetime seat after his Italian vacation.

Why it matters: News reports and advertisers moved Fox before Fox moved O'Reilly.

The tea leaves: Axios' Mike Allen reports that corporate execs would love to bring in an outside, non-political big name from another network.

The reports:

Per Stelter, 21st Century Fox will hold a board meeting Thursday, and sources say O'Reilly will be a primary topic. WSJ's Joe Flint notes that the network hasn't finalized an exit agreement with O'Reilly, whose spokespeople originally said he would be returning to the network April 24 when he first left for vacation. (Stelter reports that on Tuesday, Fox would no longer confirm his April 24 return date.)

What the Murdochs are facing:

  • Federal investigation: Per WSJ's Joe Flint: "21st Century Fox is being investigated by federal prosecutors, who are probing whether the company made insufficient disclosures about settlements of harassment claims, according to people familiar with the matter."
  • Protests: Advocacy groups have been organizing protests outside the Fox News headquarters in NYC, per the NYT.
  • Declining ad dollars: Fox executives are reportedly alarmed by the amount of advertisers pulling from the show, per Sherman, with one noting "It's worse than Glenn Beck," referring to Beck's advertiser exodus that pushed him to leave the network in 2011
  • Sky TV acquisition in the UK: The Murdochs still face a regulatory hurdle in getting final approve of their Sky TV acquisition in the UK next month, a move that will partially come down to whether regulators believe the Murdochs are "fit and proper" to run another major news outlet.
  • Sinking morale: Sources tell Sherman "morale is awful" at the company, particularly among female employees who are increasingly frustrated that Murdoch didn't remove O'Reilly sooner.
  • Family split, per Stelter: "There had been a split between Rupert Murdoch, the company's patriarch, and his sons James and Lachlan, with James advocating for O'Reilly's ouster. Lachlan was previously said to be in the middle." Per Sherman, in recent days Lachlan Murdoch has "leaned more in his brother James's direction."

What we've learned: Fox fans are loyal. Ratings (and book sales) remained strong for O'Reilly up until his departure and fill-in anchors received strong ratings while O'Reilly was out.

Sexual assault lawsuits against O'Reilly existed for months, but it wasn't until The New York Times' in-depth report on Fox settling $13 million in those lawsuits did the outside world know how bad the situation was. Fox continued to keep O'Reilly on air, and according to Stelter, even recently renewed O'Reilly's contract with the knowledge that the Times' story was being written about the lawsuits. The drama into the O'Reilly saga grew bigger as dozens of advertisers pulled their ads from the show, creating a mounting narrative that Fox wouldn't see the same $100 million+ ad revenue gains from their 8 p.m. slot if they kept O'Reilly on, despite good ratings.

What's next for Fox: This would make the third major departure for the network within a year: Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly and now, potentially O'Reilly. Dana Perino, Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld have been filling in for now, but there's no clear answer as to who would be awarded O'Reilly's spot should the network part ways with its star anchor.

What's outstanding: O'Reilly still denies any allegations of sexual assault and the President has yet to dispute any support for the anchor after he said he thought O'Reilly did nothing wrong two weeks ago.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

U.S. hits highest daily COVID-19 case count since pandemic began

Expand chart
COVID Tracking Project

The U.S. confirmed at least 83,010 coronavirus cases on Friday, the country's highest daily total since the pandemic started, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

By the numbers: Friday's total surpassed the U.S.'s previous record set on July 17 when 76,842 cases were recorded. 

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci: Trump hasn't been to a COVID task force meeting in months.
  2. Sports: The youth sports exodus continues — Big Ten football is back.
  3. Health: AstraZeneca to resume vaccine trial in U.S.How to help save 130,000 lives.
  4. Retail: Santa won't greet kids at Macy's this year.
  5. World: Spain and France exceed 1 million cases.
3 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Trump hasn't been to a COVID task force meeting in months

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump has not attended a White House coronavirus task force meeting in “several months,” NIAID director Anthony Fauci told MSNBC on Friday.

Why it matters: At the beginning of the pandemic, the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, met every day, but in the "last several weeks," members have held virtual meetings once a week, Fauci said, even as the number of new cases continues to surge in the country.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!