One of the most controversial and outspoken news presenters in the United States, Bill O'Reilly, has been axed by Fox News over allegations of sexual harassment.

In a statement the conservative news channel said that "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations... Bill O'Reilly will not be returning".

The decision to sack the outspoken Irish-American host after twenty years at the channel came after allegations that five women had been paid a reported $13m to keep quiet about harassment allegations.

O'Reilly, who has been on holiday since April 11 and and was seen shaking hands with Pope Francis at the Vatican yesterday, has strenuously denied the claims.

The allegations also saw dozens of advertisers fleeing the show, even though O'Reilly's viewership increased. On average, the show drew nearly four million viewers per night, making it one of the most popular cable news shows in America.

O'Reilly said in a statement that "It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims."

"But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today," he added.

In an internal memo to Fox News employees, Rupert Murdoch called O'Reilly "one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news."

A number of late night TV hosts, gleefully poked fun at O'Reilly's departure and Murdoch's statement.

Stephen Colbert - a long time critic of O'Reilly - said that "By ratings standards, he is. By moral standards, he was a self-righteous landfill of angry garbage."