Fox News Channel officially entered its post-Bill O’Reilly era with Tucker Carlson Tonight debuting in the 8 pm PT slot that The O’Reilly Factor had occupied for more than 20 years. Host Tucker Carlson signed on with a tribute to the channel’s former top star.

Associated Press

“For those of you tuning in expecting to see someone different in this anchor chair, I know the feeling well,” Carlson began. “I watched Bill O’Reilly at this hour for years, and I always marveled at how well prepared he was, how tough he was and how crisply and directly he expressed his views. What O’Reilly did was not easy. He set a high bar, and I’m gonna do my best to meet it. Thanks for sticking with us.”

There was no mention of why O’Reilly was gone despite The O’Reilly Factor having been the most-watched program in the cable news landscape for 14 years, recently scoring its highest-rated quarter ever. He had been dogged by multiple accusations of sexual harassment while at Fox News, along with a New York Times report early this month that O’Reilly and Fox News paid out about $13 million to settle harassment claims by five women dating back 13 years. Dozens of advertisers pulled their dollars from The O’Reilly Factor in the wake of the Times report.

O’Reilly had been off the air for more than a week before Fox News parent 21st Century Fox announced Wednesday that it was cutting ties with the host. Fill-in hosts kept the program alive, though it was re-dubbed The Factor after his April 18 ouster. The show’s ratings slipped noticeably in his absence.

O’Reilly broke his silence about the firing earlier today in a new podcast called No Spin News, saying, “I am sad that I am not on television anymore” and, “I was very surprised on how it all turned out.”

Carlson was set to interview Caitlyn Jenner during tonight’s inaugural show in the new time slot.