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Kunin: O'Reilly Falls Off His Pedestal

Bill O’Reilly was pulled off his pedestal at Fox News by the Rupert Murdoch family, but only after so many women exercised their outrage against sexual harassment. The tall statue of “the iconic most powerful name in news” was given a shove by women whose spontaneous anger gave corporate America the jitters.

When women exercise their muscles advertisers listen. Some 50 companies fled his show when after a series of sexual harassment allegations came to light, and a further investigation revealed even more. His demise followed the dismissal or the powerful Roger Ailes, the founding chairman of Fox News, who built Fox News into America’s number one cable news network. There is no doubt that Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly’s populist conservative movement had a broad impact on public opinion and possibly the election. The show “The O’Reilly Factor” was like a huge bull horn that reverberated throughout the land.

Political correctness, which O”Rilley mocked, turned out to be his undoing. But women’s anger was not just politically correct, it was a demand for common decency and respect. And it marked the end of silence for the brave women who filed their complaints against Ailes and O’Reilly. For years, women who experienced the discomfort and humiliation of unwanted sexual behavior from men, have been told ignore it and look the other way.

Just accept it as part of the job if you want to get ahead.

No more. These women and many more who suffered through various forms of abuse, have sent a strong message to all women in the workplace. Speak out. Take action. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The women at Fox News deserve our gratitude. And so do corporate board members and consumers who wielded their financial power to topple O’Reilley off his pedestal.

They have helped to make the words respect and equality the standard for corporate and work place behavior. But we’re not quite there yet. The “boys will be boys” attitude will only be taboo when a new culture permeates the workplace at every level. Then the phrase “politically correct” will be shortened to simply, correct. That’s the way it is. Correct.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont, and author of "The New Feminist Agenda, Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family," published by Chelsea Green.
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