Bill Shine has long been given credit as being a driving force behind Fox News Channel. He was a longtime guiding hand behind veteran anchors like Sean Hannity and Greta van Susteren, and is said to be a key determinant of how the network’s anchors present the issues on air each broadcast day.
But now a series of press stories and fiery tweets from Hannity himself have put Shine in a spotlight he would probably like to avoid.
Sean Hannity, the only remaining Fox News primetime anchor who has ties back to the network’s earliest days, on Thursday used Twitter to vent his frustration about a New York magazine report suggesting that Shine, currently a co-president of Fox News, had sought public support from the Murdoch family, the controlling shareholders of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox. “Somebody HIGH UP AND INSIDE FNC is trying to get an innocent person fired,” Hannity said. He also tweeted: “I pray this is NOT true because if it is, that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it. Done.”
The social-media outburst was likely meant to bolster Shine – Hannity played a large role in Shine being hired at Fox News so many years ago – but one person familiar with the company acknowledged it has probably put the executive more firmly in cross-hairs of public opinion. Fox News Channel has been under intense scrutiny for months, owing to ousters of both former chief Roger Ailes last year and veteran anchor Bill O’Reilly in recent weeks. Ailes was accused of sexual harassment by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, then removed after the company started an internal probe into the matter and found other salacious allegations, all of which the executive denied. O’Reilly and Fox parted ways after the disclosure that the anchor had paid settlements totaling as much as $13 million to women who had accused him of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. O’Reilly said his fame made him a target and he made the payments to protect his children.
Shine has been drawn into these matters. He has been cited in four different lawsuits brought against Fox News Channel by current or former employees. The allegations against Shine portray him as a loyal follower of Ailes who worked to dismiss or play down complaints about harassment. With Fox News and 21st Century Fox under investigation by federal investigators who are probing whether the company properly accounted for some payments made to female employees and with every Fox News program being screened for misogynistic content, some employees at the network wonder if Shine’s job is on the line, according to one person familiar with the company. “I think the rank and file believe he will be replaced, but who knows?” this person said.
Others, however, say Shine’s role is so integral to Fox News – and his knowledge of its operations so vast – that there is no way 21st Century Fox would let him go at present, particularly with an ongoing federal probe at hand.
Fox News on Friday declined to comment on speculation about Shine. A person familiar with the matter suggested the company viewed him as an important part of the current Fox News executive team. Earlier this week, 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch was spotted taking both Shine and Fox News’ other co-president Jack Abernethy, to lunch at Maera, a popular Central Park South eatery, a move that was seen as an attempt to show support to the two executives.
Shine got another shout of support Friday morning when Sarah Palin, the former Fox News contributor and vice presidential candidate, took to social media to talk him up. “Hope it’s not true that FOX exec Bill Shine is to be canned. He’s the good guy in all this,” she said on Twitter.