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Bill Shine, Fox News co-president, resigns from network amid harassment scandal

Outgoing Fox News President Bill Shine leaves after a meeting with then-President-elect Donald Trump in November. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The turmoil at Fox News continued on Monday with the ouster of co-president Bill Shine, who succeeded Roger Ailes amid a sexual-harassment scandal last summer despite Shine’s alleged role in abetting Ailes in tolerating a workplace hostile to women.

Shine, a 20-year Fox News veteran, appeared to have the backing of Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch in the wake of the firing of Bill O’Reilly, Fox’s biggest star. Only last week, Murdoch, Shine and Fox co-president Jack Abernethy were photographed emerging from lunch at a Manhattan restaurant, a tableau widely read as a vote of confidence by Murdoch in the two men.

Instead, Shine appeared to come under increasing pressure all week, as rumors began circulating that Murdoch’s sons — Lachlan and James, who run Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox — were seeking his successor.

Shine runs the programming side of the media empire, while Abernethy, also a longtime Fox News executive, runs the business side of the company, including ad sales, finance and distribution.

Shine got an unusually public endorsement last week from Sean Hannity, Fox’s biggest star. Amid reports that Shine could be on his way out, Hannity tweeted, “I pray this is NOT true because if it is, that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it. Done.” He added: “Somebody HIGH UP AND INSIDE FNC is trying to get an innocent person fired.”

Bill O'Reilly let go from Fox News Channel (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Shine’s departure fueled speculation that Hannity could be the next to leave Fox News. The network emphatically denied that Hannity — a favorite of conservatives and a staunch supporter of President Trump — was planning to leave. Hannity himself said in a tweet that he has no such plans.

Rupert Murdoch announced Shine’s departure in an internal memo Monday afternoon:

“Sadly, Bill Shine resigned today,” he wrote. “I know Bill was respected and liked by everyone at Fox News. We will all miss him.”

Murdoch said Suzanne Scott, Shine’s top deputy, will become president of programming. Jay Wallace, executive vice president of news, will be president of news.

Added Murdoch: “Fox News continues to break both viewing and revenue records, for which I thank you all. I am sure we can do even better.”

The terse and relatively upbeat announcement masked what has become an extraordinarily tumultuous nine months for Fox News. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson's harassment lawsuit against former chief executive Ailes last July triggered a succession of lawsuits, internal investigations, resignations and firings.

In addition to Ailes, O’Reilly and now Shine, Fox has lost Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren, both of whom anchored evening programs on Fox. Both joined NBC in January, with Van Susteren becoming the host of a program on MSNBC while Kelly is slated to host a prime-time magazine show on NBC in June.

The network also has a new chief financial officer and head of human resources.

The appointment of Scott puts a woman at the top of the network for the first time in its 21-year history and may be the most visible sign yet that the younger Murdochs are attempting to foster what they called “a workplace based on the values of respect and trust” when Ailes was forced out.

Women’s groups, and some Fox employees, have complained that the Murdochs weren’t serious about reforming Fox as long as its leadership — selected by and loyal to Ailes — remained mostly intact.

O’Reilly was fired last month after the New York Times revealed that he and Fox had paid millions of dollars to quietly settle sexual harassment allegations against him, including two after Ailes left last summer. Both O’Reilly and Ailes have denied the many accusations lodged by female employees of Fox against them.

Shine has been implicated in the harassment scandal, and an unrelated racial discrimination action, via several lawsuits filed by Fox employees. Among the claims are that Shine ignored or played down complaints and concealed Ailes’s behavior. Among others, former host Andrea Tantaros alleged in a suit last year that she complained about Ailes’s harassment of her to Shine, and Shine advised her against pursuing the claim.

More broadly, Shine has been under suspicion for his close association with Ailes over the years, and over what role, if any, he played in helping Ailes maintain secrecy in the face of allegations of harassment and employee intimidation. He has repeatedly disclaimed any knowledge of Ailes’s allegedly unethical or illegal behavior.

Shine did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Some at Fox believed Shine gave the network stability and continuity as it was buffeted by the Ailes and O’Reilly episodes.

Shine started his career at Fox News as a producer on “Hannity & Colmes,” the program Sean Hannity hosted with Alan ­Colmes.

Hannity did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Shine’s departure.

In addition to the sexual harassment allegations, Fox last week was sued by a dozen African American workers, including Fox host Kelly Wright, who have claimed that the company maintained an abusive work environment and was racially discriminatory. A 13th employee filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The dozen workers — some former and some current Fox employees — joined a lawsuit filed in March in New York by two employees, Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, who accused the network’s former controller, Judith Slater, of racial animus. Fox said the suit has no merit.