By Joe Pompeo | 04/21/2017 06:33 AM EDT

With Cristiano Lima

THE O'REILLY EMAILS - ICYMI, from my story yesterday evening : The day before Bill O'Reilly was cut loose from Fox News after 20 years with the network, his handlers appeared to believe they had at least one more card to pull that might help save his job in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal engulfing the top-rated prime time host. On Tuesday, O'Reilly and his legal team debated whether to share with the leadership of parent company 21st Century Fox an April 13 email from Mary Pat Bonner, a Democratic fundraiser and ally of the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, which had spearheaded what she called an "advertiser education campaign" ... The email announced two conference calls with Media Matters ... to discuss "the success of the campaign so far, and our plans moving forward."

To O'Reilly's camp, it was evidence of a left-wing plot to oust the profit-making anchor and conservative media star, who maintains that the sexual harassment allegations against him, including $13 million worth of settlements first reported by The New York Times on April 1, are "unfounded." Perhaps Rupert, James and Lachlan Murdoch, the top executives of 21st Century Fox, could be convinced that O'Reilly was unfairly under attack? Probably not. But in any case, O'Reilly was against going to them with the Bonner email, anyway.

"If we show to Fox tomorrow, word will get out and the Thursday call may be cancelled," O'Reilly wrote in an April 18 email exchange that was forwarded to POLITICO on Wednesday night by a member of O'Reilly's legal team at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, but which a representative for O'Reilly subsequently said had been sent by mistake. "So no formal sending to Rupert until after the call," O'Reilly continued, before venting: "You all should know that I will not put up with much more from FNC."

More: "Emails show O'Reilly lawyers' last-ditch effort to save his job"

Media Matters President Angelo Carusone sent me a statement last night, which reads in part: "Lol. Nothing nefarious here. Media Matters' efforts were very public."

TIPS AND COMMENTS: jpompeo@politico.com / @joepompeo. Morning Media is edited by Alex Weprin (@alexweprin / aweprin@politico.com) and produced with writing/reporting help from Cristiano Lima ( clima@politico.com / @ludacristiano). Archives. Subscribe.

NO O'REILLY? NO PROBLEM! by Alex Weprin - If the numbers for Wednesday's Bill O'Reilly-less "Factor" are any indication, the channel may yet weather the storm caused by the Fox News star's sudden departure. The vaunted 8 p.m. hour, hosted last night by Dana Perino, averaged 3.3 million viewers. For reference: CNN's Anderson Cooper averaged 1.3 million, while MSNBC's Chris Hayes averaged 1.6 million. In the adults 25-54 demographic that advertisers covet, Perino averaged 625,000, to CNN's 432,000 and MSNBC's 404,000. The strength of those ratings, should they continue under Tucker Carlson, who takes over 8 p.m. next week, could result in O'Reilly's departure being little more than a blip in FNC's business. If however the audience flees, or slowly dissipates, it could be the beginning of a new cable news ratings race.

SPREADING THE BLAME AROUND - Jack Shafer's latest : "[T]the underplayed story of the week is the easy ride being given to his bosses at Fox News Channel. ... The network has known since at least 2002 of O'Reilly's-what shall we call them?-appalling ways around the newsroom. ... If Ailes and O'Reilly had to walk the plank, why not current Fox co-presidents Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy? ... Even if you assume their innocence-and I do-they had to know about the years-long pattern of accusations against O'Reilly and the settlements paid. And given the amount of money paid to protect O'Reilly against the charges, some drawn from the Fox treasury, surely uber-boss Rupert Murdoch knew what was going on. What's his responsibility for waiting so long to take action?"

MUST READS:

-- "4 Hours at the White House With Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin and Kid Rock" [NYT]

-- "How to deal with the world's most dangerous regime" [The Economist]

-- "How Berkeley became a hotbed of violence in the Trump era" [POLITICO]

-- "Inside The Hunt For Russia's Hackers" [BuzzFeed]

GOOD STUFF FROM MICHAEL WOLFF - via THR : "After The New York Times wrote about the sexual harassment claims leveled at Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly and the settlements made by the company and O'Reilly himself, James Murdoch, according to 21st Century Fox sources, kept repeating with horror to his friends and executives: 'This is on the front page of The New York Times!' These sources say James Murdoch's longtime annoyance if not disgust with Fox News became cold fury after the Times' April 1 story ... If the expulsion of Ailes, and, even more dramatically, O'Reilly, mean anything, it means most of all that James is in charge. And, most immediately, this means that Fox News, that constant irritant in James' view of himself as a progressive and visionary television executive, will begin to change. Virtually overnight." More: "It's James Murdoch's Fox News Now"

SIDENOTE ABOUT NYT'S O'REILLY COVERAGE - I've been hearing this week about how executive editor Dean Baquet was heavily involved in shaping it, starting with Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt's front-page April 1 bombshell setting the whole thing in motion. The fact that Baquet was so hands-on shows what an important story this was for the Times, even with big national security and Trump administration pieces sucking up so much of the news cycle's oxygen lately.

DARREN ARONOFSKY GETS ON BOARD NYT TRUTH CAMPAIGN - The Times is announcing this morning that the surrealist auteur has contributed four films to the next wave of ads for its brand campaign promoting "fact-based, independent journalism" in the misinformation age. The films, according to the Times, "focus on critical stories that have been covered extensively by Times journalists," on subjects like refugees, terrorism and Ebola.

Aronofsky: "Instead of being maligned and mistrusted, journalists should be respected and thanked. For me, it was an honor to speak with them about their methods and some of their toughest assignments. I hope the commercials pay tribute to the important work these men and women have done and continue to do."

SOUND BITES:

-- "O'Reilly's way of showing that he is a friend to women who have been victims of crimes was to send his male producer to follow a young woman who lived alone across state lines while she was on vacation." [Amanda Terkel]

-- "Calling it the platform for the alt-right, and defining the alt-right as white supremacy, is a journalistic trick, designed to pretend that what Bannon was saying was, if you're a white supremacist, come to Breitbart for your news." [Milo Yiannopoulos]

-- "I'd be thrilled to have a television relationship." [Jason Chaffetz]

REVOLVING DOOR:

-- Robert Acosta is taking the helm of "Washington Week." The Washington Post national political reporter will be the new moderator of the hour-long PBS political talk show, succeeding the late, great Gwen Ifill.

-- The Atlantic has hired John Swansburg as a senior editor. He joins the publication after a ten-year stint with Slate, where he last served as the website's deputy editor.

WANT TO FIGHT FAKE NEWS FOR FACEBOOK? Recode reports: "Facebook is looking to hire someone to head up its news products, a significant new role charged with helping to combat the proliferation of so-called fake news on its service. Facebook is talking to veterans of both the tech and media industries, according to multiple sources, but is having trouble finding someone with both the news and technology chops necessary to fill the role."

TODAY IN M&A - via The Los Angeles times: "The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday accelerated its deregulation push under Republican control, voting to ease limits on broadcast TV ownership and prices that large telecom companies can charge businesses and governments for bulk broadband services. Revisions to how the agency calculates the audience reached by broadcasters would clear the way for Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. to purchase Tribune Media Co., which owns KTLA-TV Channel 5 in Los Angeles and 41 other stations."

SOUNDTRACK: Jawbreaker, "Kiss the Bottle"

EXTRAS:

-- In the end, a fear among sponsors of a consumer revolt helped drive the final the nail into O'Reilly's coffin. [NYT]

-- Susan Chira: "A New Era After Bill O'Reilly? Women Aren't Convinced" [NYT]

-- "Jake Tapper asked whether Sarah Palin was harassed at Fox News. She didn't exactly say no." [WaPo/The Fix]

-- "Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. is aiming to acquire Tribune Media Co., owner of TV stations in big media markets including New York, Chicago and Miami, for a per-share price in the high $30s" [Bloomberg]

-- Wired joins The New Yorker and others in accepting leaks and tips through SecureDrop [Adweek]

To view online:
http://www.politico.com/media/tipsheets/morning-media/2017/04/the-end-of-oreillys-very-bad-week-its-james-murdochs-show-now-nyt-lands-aronofsky-for-its-truth-campaign-001261

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