UPDATED with additional information: Fox News Channel has stopped assuring that Bill O’Reilly will be returning to its air on Monday, as Matt Drudge took to twitter to fete the news channel’s biggest star’s “tremendous run.”  Preliminary exit talks have begun, reports CNN, which has been aggressively covering its competitor’s internecine drama.

O’Reilly is expected to top of the list of things discussed at Thursday’s board meeting of  FNC parent company, 21st Century Fox .

Matt Drudge took to Twitter this morning to talk Bill O’Reilly in a past-tense-ish way, opening the floodgate for media posts borrowing Shakespeare gags about burying/praising Caesar.

Drudge’s rare, and cryptic, tweet comes same day a group of about 30 people stationed outside Fox News Channel’s New York headquarters demanded that O’Reilly get the sack. More to the point, FNC chronicler-in-chief Gabe Sherman penned a post for New York magazine alleging that both of Rupert Murdoch’s sons now are leaning toward recommending O’Reilly be removed from the cable news network’s slate, while their father leans in the opposite direction.

Sherman speculated O’Reilly might become the flotsam and jetsam of the Murdochs’ pending $14 billion takeover of European pay-TV provider Sky. British media regulators will decide next month whether the Murdochs are “fit and proper” to own such a large media property and “removing O’Reilly could appease critics and help close the Sky deal,” Sherman wrote.

FNC had been running O’Reilly promos in his absence, including a full-court press starting Sunday with spots sighted at noon, 7 PM and midnight and Monday at 3, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 AM.

Last week, O’Reilly announced he was taking a pre-planned vacation while the harassment controversy in which he has the starring role still is at full boil. He paid a visit to the Vatican and is still in Italy, according to one source. When O’Reilly left, he did so without publicly addressing the New York Times report that Fox News and its primetime star had, between them, allegedly paid five women nearly $13M in settlements going back 15 years.

That report triggered massive advertiser bailout from the show, the list quickly grew to 70 with CNN leading the coverage tracking advertiser pull-out.

After O’Reilly’s last broadcast, on April 11,  navel lint-gazing began immediately, with pundits wondering if he actually would return (FNC said yes, on April 24); if it had, in fact, been planned in advance; if the vacay would help quell the controversy.

O’Reilly has been keeping Fox News and parent company very busy since the NYT report came out.

EVP Ad Sales Paul Rittenberg worked with the companies to address their current concerns about The O’Reilly Factor and moved the ads into other FNC programs.

The parent company, 21st Century Fox confirmed it was investigating the sexual harassment claims.

NewsCorp chief Rupert Murdoch sent a memo to FNC staff thanking them for the network’s ratings success as the O’Reilly probe got underway.

The President of the United States weighed from the Oval Office, praising O’Reilly to NYT reporters he’d called into the room as a “good person” who “I don’t think … did anything wrong” – except, that is, to have settled with the women.

The O’Reilly Factor has been the most-watched program in the cable news landscape for 14 years, recently clocking its highest-rated quarter ever. While O’Reilly has been off the air, his show’s ratings have slipped noticeably.

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