Fox News' critics ask: Is Bill Shine the Man Who Knew Too Much?

bill shine

In the post-Roger Ailes, post-Bill O'Reilly era, Fox News co-president Bill Shine is the network's most valuable player. He has been with the Fox since its inception, was Ailes' right-hand man for two decades, and has deeper relationships with its top talent than anyone.

But Shine, who is named in at least four lawsuits or allegations related to alleged sexual harassment or racial discrimination at the network, is also Fox's most vulnerable player. A member of the old guard, he has been ensnared in multiple sexual harassment allegations -- not accused of harassment himself, but of covering up the alleged wrongdoings of others. This week, a lawsuit against the network accusing it of discrimination against employees and contributors of color said he'd made insensitive comments to an African-American anchor.

Shine's promotion to co-president of Fox News last fall raises questions about how the Murdochs, who run 21st Century Fox, have decided to handle their most controversial asset. Rather than clean house in the wake of Ailes departure, they have opted to stay the course with one of Ailes' most trusted aides. Doing so has left them vulnerable to accusations from media insiders and even their own employees at Fox News that while they may be unwilling to tolerate alleged sexual harassment, they are at least willing to tolerate those who allegedly helped to cover it up.

"Shine is strike three," an industry insider who has spoken with one of the Murdochs recently said.

Related: Attorney says racial discrimination lawsuit against Fox 'will continue to grow'

21st Century Fox signed Shine and fellow co-president Jack Abernethy to multi-year deals last fall, and Rupert Murdoch took both men to lunch at Manhattan's posh Italian restaurant Marea earlier this week in what sources described as an obvious public show of support. (Rupert's sons James and Lachalan were notably absent.)

But outside of Murdoch's orbit, Shine has a target on his back. His mere presence at the network has current and former Fox News employees questioning the Murdochs' stated commitment to "a work environment built on the values of trust and respect." Meanwhile, outside groups like the liberal organization Media Matters For America are calling on Fox to fire him.

Shine, Fox News and 21st Century Fox declined to comment for this article.

Former Fox News booker Laurie Luhn, who has accused Ailes of sexually harassing her for years and has said she had a sexual relationship with Ailes as part of that harassment, has accused Shine of making travel arrangements for her meetings with Ailes. Shine also recommended psychiatrists for her to see while she was dealing with mental breakdowns that she attributed to the stress of her treatment by the former Fox News CEO. For a time, Luhn said, Shine was even tasked with monitoring her outgoing emails.

Shine has previously acknowledged to New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman that he scheduled Luhn's trips to New York and recommended doctors for her, but said he had no knowledge that she and Ailes were involved. He denied monitoring Luhn's emails.

Julie Roginsky, an on-air contributor, alleged in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that Shine retaliated against her for not supporting Ailes in his battle against Gretchen Carlson. Roginsky said that when she met with him last fall to discuss Ailes, Shine defended Ailes by comparing him and other Fox executives to the rock band The Eagles. He called them "a gift to the nation."

Additionally, Andrea Tantaros, a former daytime host, has accused Shine of telling her not to speak up about her own sexual harassment allegations against Ailes. Tantaros has said that when she brought her complaints to Shine, he held up an issue of Variety with Ailes's face on the cover and said, "Don't fight this." Shine has denied this and said that Tantaros never approached him with claims against Ailes.

Shine was also Fox News' co-president when Fox's parent company 21st Century Fox paid settlements to two women who accused O'Reilly of sexual harassment. The revelation of those settlements and three others sparked the crisis that led to O'Reilly's firing.

Related: Fox News' new, O'Reilly-free lineup debuts to O'Reilly-level ratings

Shine is also said to have sided with O'Reilly when Megyn Kelly complained that O'Reilly's public defense of Ailes could have a chilling effect on other would-be accusers. Despite a letter from Kelly and a call from one of her producers urging Fox to pull an O'Reilly segment about the issue, Shine let that segment air, according to a New York Times report.

Most recently, Shine has been tied to a racial discrimination and harassment lawsuit brought against Fox News this month. That suit, which is being led by Kelly Wright, a black reporter and anchor, claims Shine "has demonstrated an obsession with race when it comes to discussions with Mr. Wright, including regularly asking him, 'how do Black people react to you' and 'how do you think White viewers look at you?'" (Shine is not named as a defendant in the suit.)

Under Shine and Abernethy, Fox has taken steps to make cultural changes since Ailes' departure. In December, the network hired Kevin Lord, the former General Electric/NBC human resources chief, to head up their HR department. Lord has significantly expanded the HR division and implemented a mandatory "sensitivity training" course, according to the network.

Fox has also moved more quickly to address more complaints against staff, firing Fox News Latino's Francisco Cortés in the wake of a sexual assault allegation and comptroller Judy Slater for allegedly making racist remarks to fellow employees. (Cortés has not addressed the allegations publicly; Slater has denied them.)

However, the plaintiffs in the Slater case allege that Fox knew about her behavior for years and only fired her once they were aware of the impending lawsuit.

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