Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly has issued a statement calling “disheartening” Fox News’s decision to cut ties with its biggest star over what he calls “completely unfounded claims.”

In FNC’s Mediabuzz coverage of today’s announcement, Howard Kurtz reported that his bosses severed ties to O’Reilly “after mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior prompted the network to end his program.”

O’Reilly’s statement:

Over the past 20 years at Fox News I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television. 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.

I will always look back on my time with Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.

The statement marks O’Reilly’s first remarks on the subject since The New York Times reported on April 1 that O’Reilly and Fox between them had paid $13 million to settle five cases against him alleging sexual or other harassment, going back as far as 15 years. A swarm of advertisers pulled their spots from The O’Reilly Factor; some accounts put the number at 90 companies. Fox News parent 21st Century Fox asked a law firm to investigate a newer complaint from a woman who alleged O’Reilly dropped efforts to make her a contributor in 2013 after she spurned his advances.

The primetime star had been off the air, having last week announced he was leaving on vacation. He had been scheduled to return to air on Monday. On Wednesday, before 21st Century Fox announced “the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” the Factor host was meeting Pope Francis in a VIP line at the Vatican.

One day before O’Reilly issued his statement, his lawyer issued a scathing statement accusing liberals of a “smear campaign” against his client. O’Reilly “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America,” that statement asserted.