Fox News on Monday removed one of its most powerful executives, Bill Shine, another seismic shake-up at a network that remains in crisis mode as its owner, Rupert Murdoch, moves to steer it past the sexual harassment scandal that first engulfed it last summer.
Mr. Shine, a network co-president and a longtime lieutenant to its disgraced former chairman, Roger Ailes, was viewed by some employees as a symbol of Fox News’s old-guard leadership even as its parent, 21st Century Fox, pledged reforms to the company culture and a new era of civility in the newsroom.
But there were signs that the pressure on 21st Century Fox might not let up soon. One veteran executive who was promoted on Monday, Suzanne Scott, has, like Mr. Shine, been cited in lawsuits as a figure who enabled and concealed Mr. Ailes’s harassing behavior toward women.
The departure of Mr. Shine — who was selected by Mr. Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, for his job last summer — is also likely to roil some of Fox News’s most recognizable stars, including Sean Hannity, a close friend of the ousted co-president. Mr. Hannity defended his friend last week on Twitter, saying that removing Mr. Shine would be “the total end of the FNC as we know it,” but he has been silent about the matter on Monday.
Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox and Fox News executive chairman, made the announcement Monday via a brief email to Fox News staffers.
“Sadly, Bill Shine resigned today,” wrote Murdoch in a memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “I know Bill was respected and liked by everybody at Fox News. We will all miss him.”
Suzanne Scott becomes president of programming and Jay Wallace has been promoted to president of news. Scott had been Shine’s second-in-command in programming and has been with the network since it began in 1996. Additionally, Fox Business Network executive vp Brian Jones becomes president of the network, reporting to Scott and Wallace.
The Murdochs had recently quietly put out external feelers for a new head of Fox News and were known to be looking for a woman, which would send a clear message given the cloud of sexism the network has been under since last summer when Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit opened the floodgates of similar accusations against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes as well as network star Bill O’Reilly. But multiple media observers note that Scott does not represent a break from the past nor the clean slate many women at Fox News have been agitating for.
Fox News faced a fresh legal challenge on Monday after Diana Falzone, a reporter at the network, accused it of discriminating against her on the basis of her gender and her fight against a chronic disease.
Ms. Falzone, who appeared regularly on Fox News and helped host several shows on the network‘s website, claimed in a suit filed Monday in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan that she had been barred from further appearances after writing an op-ed column for Fox News disclosing that she had endometriosis and was likely to be infertile.
The suit claims that Ms. Falzone had approval from her supervisors to write the column, which ran with the headline “Women Should Never Suffer in Silence.”
According to the lawsuit, her supervisor, Refet Kaplan, told her shortly after the piece ran that executives at the network had barred her from appearing on the air on Fox News or its website, the suit says, adding that Ms. Falzone was not given a reason for the decision. The filing did not elaborate on why she believed the column led to her being barred other than noting that it happened three days after the article was published and that she previously had received positive performance evaluations.
Shine was Hannity’s long-time ally whom he personally recommended the network hire two decades ago to produce Hannity & Colmes. In recent days, Hannity warned it would be the “total end” of Fox News should Shine leave, and he rallied conservative activists to back him up.
However, with Shine’s departure on Monday, one source told The Daily Beast, there’s no reason for Hannity to stay.
“The network now belongs to the Murdoch sons,” another Fox insider said after learning that Shine was gone.
One insider speculates that the negotiations could end this week and Hannity might be out by Friday. Another said his final show could even be tonight or Tuesday evening, given Shine’s Monday resignation.