Drudge tweet could mark end of era at Fox

Bill O'Reilly's fate may not have been written on a proverbial wall or in a legal document, but in a tweet from Matt Drudge.

The reclusive Drudge sent a rare and ominous tweet about O'Reilly on Tuesday, writing that the embattled Fox News host "has had a tremendous run."
 
"Very few in the business get to decide when and how things end," the conservative media personality tweeted. "Media is most brutal of all industries."

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The Drudge Report founder's tweet comes after a New York magazine report Tuesday that said the sons of Rupert Murdoch, the 21st Century Fox and Fox News executive chairman, are weighing pulling the highly rated host off the air in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.

CNN and The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday evening that O'Reilly and Fox are in exit talks. O'Reilly's camp denies via sources any such talks are occurring.

If a Drudge tweet projecting the end of the career for an Fox News icon sounds familiar, it's because a similar scenario happened just nine months ago, shortly before the exit of former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.

The New York Times called the July 19 tweet regarding Ailes from the reticent Drudge, who rarely states anything in public, "The tweet heard round the world."

"Shortly after 4 p.m., Matt Drudge of The Drudge Report website, wrote on Twitter that Roger Ailes was leaving as chairman of Fox News with a $40 million financial package, after an investigation into allegations that he had sexually harassed Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox anchor," reported the Times. "Accompanying the tweet was what appeared to be a separation agreement between Mr. Ailes and the network, which he founded 20 years ago."

The stunning news appeared on the Drudge Report, which attracts more than 1.4 billion page view per month, in big block letters under a siren image that signals a must-read story to the site's visitors.

Drudge, without explanation, pulled the story after seemingly every media outlet ran with it, but it turned out to be true.

Ailes did resign from Fox News the next day and did receive a $40 million financial package. Whether the separation agreement was meant to be seen by the public is another matter and was likely the reason the story was pulled from The Drudge Report.
 
Given this precedent, a rare tweet from Drudge to his nearly 500,000 followers is noteworthy since the 50-year-old founder seems to pick and choose his spots. 
 
Drudge is thought to have pipelines to major players in the media, and his message about O'Reilly appears to have come from a trusted source, not blind speculation. 

"When I saw Drudge's tweet, I was on the Amtrak from New York to Washington for a work event," Brian Flood, a media reporter for TheWrap.com, tells The Hill. "I had been listening to music and immediately thought Bill O'Reilly was officially fired or stepped down.

"I first assumed it was official because Drudge is so plugged in."

Fox News has been publicly silent on any and all reports regarding any O'Reilly exit talks and hasn't made any public comment on the situation in a week. 

The network similarly did not make any public statements in the days before the Ailes departure in July of 2016.

The allegations against O'Reilly are being investigated by the same law firm hired by 21st Century Fox to look into sexual harassment claims against Ailes following a lawsuit filed by former host Gretchen Carlson. 

Ailes would resign just days after law firm Paul, Weiss launched its investigation. 

"21st Century Fox investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters," the company said in a statement on April 10. 
 
A 21st Century Fox board meeting is set for Thursday, which may officially decide if O'Reilly stays or goes. 
 
He has been absent from his "O'Reilly Factor" for about a week for vacation and was set to return April 24.