By Joe Pompeo | 04/20/2017 06:26 AM EDT

With Cristiano Lima

BILL O'REILLY DIDN'T GET TO SAY GOODBYE TO HIS VIEWERS LAST NIGHT - So Dana Perino did it for him. It was the first time in two decades that the show O'Reilly built into a conservative mega-platform and Fox News profit center was, well, no longer O'Reilly's.

"Before we get to the other big stories of the day," said Perino, a Fox News contributor and ex-White House press secretary, at the start of last night's broadcast, "we want to address the situation many of you may already be aware of. Bill O'Reilly, who hosted this program for 20 years, is leaving the Fox News Channel. We know that you, his very loyal viewers, will have a lot of feelings about this and we will talk more about it later on in the program." In the final minutes of the show -- by the way, O'Reilly's name was scrubbed from the erstwhile "O'Reilly Factor" logo -- Perino said it was "the end of an era at Fox," praising O'Reilly as "the undisputed king of cable news, for good reason. He is an incredibly talented broadcaster who raised the bar for interviewers everywhere."

One might argue that's a generous send off for a man whose career is now clouded by $13 million worth of sexual harassment settlements and fresh allegations that are still making headlines. But O'Reilly's audience is nothing if not devoted (and large). And besides, despite his defenestration at the hands of the Murdoch family of 21st Century Fox, for whom the taint had become too much of a liability, O'Reilly maintains this is all just down to people who are out to get him. From his statement yesterday en route back to New York from Italy: "It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims."

As for "evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O'Reilly for political and financial reasons," which O'Reilly's attorney on Tuesday promised "will be put forth shortly and ... is irrefutable," O'Reilly's rep had no further update last night -- although I've learned that what the attorney seems to be referring to, at least in part, is a campaign by Media Matters to pressure O'Reilly's advertisers into a boycott. (Mission accomplished, and that was no secret; in fact we did a big piece about it .) No comment either on what O'Reilly's immediate plans are now that he's cut his vacation short and doesn't have a nightly show to produce. Starting Monday, Tucker Carlson is the new face of FNC's 8 p.m. hour, his rise at the network now looking as swift and inexorable as O'Reilly's fall. More below...

TIPS AND COMMENTS: / @joepompeo. Morning Media is edited by Alex Weprin (@alexweprin / and produced with writing/reporting help from Cristiano Lima ( / @ludacristiano). Hadas Gold contributed to today's column. Archives. Subscribe.

SOOOO MANY O'REILLY STORIES CIRCULATING IT ALMOST FEELS FUTILE TO ROUND THEM ALL UP - But here's a fresh and dishy one from Sarah Ellison last night over at Vanity Fair's Hive : "As shocking as the Roger Ailes fiasco may have been, and as surprising as Megyn Kelly's departure went down, Bill O'Reilly's sudden ouster has absolutely shaken the newsroom, according to multiple insiders. ... O'Reilly, who was enjoying a vacation in Italy, only formally learned of his demise en route to the airport. ... The most unsettling feeling among some at Fox News, however, is that Wednesday's events are only the beginning. 'There's more to come,' one Fox News insider told me, suggesting that there are more women with stories of harassment who have not come forward publicly."

Our coverage, via Hadas Gold: "Fox News staff members reacted to the news of Bill O'Reilly's departure with a mix of surprise, relief and anger. The surprise was that O'Reilly, the powerful ratings behemoth who had been with the network from Day One, was actually gone. ... Relief came from those who were tired of O'Reilly's star presence and attitude. ... There also was anger, however, toward O'Reilly and top management who had known for many years that the prime-time host and a public face of the network was facing allegations of sexual harassment."

RELATED: GRETCHEN CARLSON MADE THIS YEAR'S TIME 100 - The full feature is scheduled to go live at 7 a.m., but Morning Media got a sneak peek at Katie Couric's writeup of the Roger Ailes slayer: "Gretchen Carlson's very public stand against Fox News blew the lid off a corporate culture that seemed to perpetuate sexual harassment -- from the executive suite to the anchor desk. ... Her resolve led to the downfall of one of the most powerful men in media, Roger Ailes. Now Gretchen is shining a light on the fine print in employ­ment contracts that force victims into arbitration and secret settlements, leaving the public in the dark." The 2017 list will be live here.


-- "Why does the liberal media think Bill O'Reilly is a complete and total vulgarian? I don't think so!" [Donald Trump, April 2016]

-- "OMG. Short-fingered vulgarian uses word (he doesn't remember?) he learned from us 29 years ago in Spy. Longest callback in comedy history." [Kurt Andersen, last night]

-- "Notable that of the three powerful men accused of sexual harassment in 2016, two have been fired. The third is president." [Nicholas Kristof]

-- "Bye, bye Bill. Will never forget my first time on show, opposing Iraq war, when he sneered 'probably 20% of Americans agree w/ MR. GARCIA'" [John Diaz]

-- "First phone-hacking rocked Rupert Murdoch's empire, now a major sexual harassment scandal. What odds both would happen at the same company?" [Matt Garrahan]

MANHUNT FOR WIKILEAKS LEAKER UNDERWAY- CBS News reports : "The CIA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation into one of the worst security breaches in CIA history, which exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA tools used to penetrate smartphones, smart televisions and computer systems. Sources familiar with the investigation say it is looking for an insider -- either a CIA employee or contractor -- who had physical access to the material. ... The trove was published in March by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks." CIA director Mike Pompeo (we'll save you the trouble: No relation!) recently blasted WikiLeaks as a " non-state hostile intelligence service" in a speech that alarmed press freedom advocates.

THE PAPARAZZI PRESIDENCY - From my colleagues' Annie Karni and Tara Palmeri's feature yesterday : "[I]n November, the Daily Mail published a 59-photo slideshow of [Kellyanne Conway] lounging poolside in her bathing suit while on a family vacation in Key Biscayne, Florida. ... Paparazzi photographer Mark Wilkins used to stalk movie stars like Shia LaBeouf, who once famously threw a cup of coffee at him. He's now taken to following White House aides instead. ... The Daily Mail pays photographers a daily rate to sit outside the Kalorama home of Trump's older daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, tracking them as they come and go, sometimes in their gym clothes. Omarosa Manigault ... tipped off the Daily Mail last month to her own wedding at the Trump International Hotel."

TAPPER, BY TAFFY - From the May issue of GQ, by Taffy Brodessor-Akner: "With the leader of the Free World now waging a self-styled war with the media, no journalist on TV has become more indignant, more combative, and suddenly more essential than Jake Tapper. The CNN anchor's ramrod brand of honest outrage has made him a bona fide star and prompted an unlikely question: How, in an age of lies, does a guy make righteous truth-telling so damn entertaining?"

Tapper: "I'm doing my job, and it's nice to be recognized, but I also know that a lot of the people who are happy with me now are not going to be happy with me in four to eight years and that I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. A lot of people sending me nice tweets today were cursing me when I was asking questions about Benghazi in 2012. ... I'm definitely getting some attention right now, at this period, that I wasn't before. It also might be gone in a week. You know what I mean? I'm not counting on it." More.

DAN RATHER RESURGENCE GOES MAINSTREAM - People magazine has an "exclusive" on the 85-year-old newsman, late-life social media phenom and recently in-demand state-of-journalism commentator -- at least, it's "exclusive" in the sense that this is a different Dan Rather interview than all the other Dan Rather interviews lately: "Inside Dan Rather's Unexpected Comeback 11 Years After CBS Exit ." Ends on an up note: "I think it's part of the American character to be optimistic. Personally I'm optimistic by nature and by experience, and mine is just a small, but I hope gentle, voice saying, 'You know what? We're going to be all right. It may take a while ... but we're going to be all right.'"


-- "How North Korea Analysts Uncover the Hermit Kingdom's Secrets" [NYT/The Interpreter]

-- "How Harvard Business School Helped Turn Steve Bannon Into A Monster" [Vanity Fair]

-- "Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election - documents" [Reuters]

THE BRAND THAT BESTS CABLE NEWS - Perhaps in part due to a negative perception of coverage of the 2016 election, the No. 1 TV news brand is not CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, but rather... The Weather Channel, according to the Harris Poll's annual study on brand health. The latest findings show the relatively staid PBS still leading the way among TV network brands, trailed by ABC and CBS, while the more politically-focused big three of cable news, along with CNBC, all scored below the average for their category. Meanwhile, for "News Service Brands," NPR claimed top honors, followed by the BBC, Google News, Reuters, Yahoo! News and The New York Times. The full results are here.

NOTES FROM LAST NIGHT'S WHCA TOWN HALL, by Hadas Gold - It was a packed house at the National Press Club, where correspondents lobbed complaints, compliments and comments both at each other and the White House. For the most part, the crowd got down into the weeds of the mechanics of being a White House pooler. The Correspondents' Association passed along the administration's point of view, such as how they care a lot about decorum, including journalists jostling for space and not asking questions politely. (Tsk tsk!) But perhaps most notable was WHCA President Jeff Mason's remark that President Trump had essentially banned his staff from attending this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner. "They call it solidarity," Mason said, referring to the official spin, "but he told them not to come."


-- NBC News Digital's new managing editor is David Firestone, the former long-serving New York Times journalist who became's managing editor after taking a buyout in late 2014. "David will work closely with me as we continue to expand our newsroom," NBC News executive editor Catherine Kim wrote in a memo to staff yesterday. NBC News has been staffing up its digital operation, especially on the politics beat, which is now under the leadership of CNN and POLITICO vet Gregg Birnbaum. Per Kim: "In addition to sharing his expertise on all things politics with Gregg, David will focus on our overall daily and enterprise coverage across all news."

-- Meanwhile, at CBS News, Nancy Cordes has been promoted to chief congressional correspondent after serving as congressional correspondent since 2008.

LETTER FROM MOSCOW - Troubling, via the Committee to Protect Journalists: "The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta received an envelope containing an unidentified white powder this morning, the newspaper reported today. The envelope's only return address was 'Grozny,' the capital of Chechnya, where preachers and political officials have recently threatened the newspaper for reporting on the alleged torture and detention of men suspected of homosexuality."

And from the Moscow Times: "Nikolay Andruschenko, a journalist and co-founder at the Novy Peterburg newspaper, died in a local hospital, the Rosbalt news agency reported on Wednesday. Andruschenko, who was 73 years old, never regained consciousness after suffering a brutal attack on his way to a meeting last month. ... Andruschenko was renowned for his brave investigative reporting on local crime, corruption, and police brutality. Novy Peterburg, a weekly publication that he co-founded, recently ran a series of articles about city officials' mafia connections."

Mark Ames: "Russian journalists are some of the bravest in the world, and they've been paying for it in blood since Yeltsin era"

SOUNDTRACK: Girls Against Boys, "Bullet Proof Cupid"


-- The Huffington Post is sending the Kansas high school journalists who busted their principals fake job credentials to the White House Correspondents' Dinner. [The Huffington Post]

-- Charles P. Pierce: "Being Tough on the Clintons has become one of the ways the Times has tried to prove its journalistic bona fides to the country and the world, while the Clintons seem to veer between hating the paper and wondering why the it doesn't love them." [Esquire]

-- "Can a new Trump-inspired intellectual magazine" -- the Journal of American Greatness -- "transcend its contradictions?" [The Nation]

-- Ruth Sulzberger Holmberg, the former longtime Chattanooga Times publisher and a member of the family that controls The New York Times, died Wednesday at 96. [NYT]

-- Latest on the Time Inc. sale. (Hint: Not much to see here.) [New York Post]

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