Fox News Purge Probably Isn’t Over: "More Executives Are Vulnerable"
Despite the resignation of co-president Bill Shine, the news network's turnover may not yet be finished.
How long will the Fox News shake-up keep shaking?
The abrupt resignation of Bill Shine on Monday may not be the last one among the old guard of executives who were closely aligned with ousted Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. And that uncertainty is causing a sense of alarm and chaos to permeate the top-rated cable news network, according to sources.
Like Shine, Suzanne Scott, who was promoted to president of programming Monday, also has been named in multiple harassment lawsuits, including those of contributor Julie Roginsky and suspended anchor Andrea Tantaros. Current anchor Kelly Wright, who is leading a racial discrimination class action against the network even as he continues to appear on the air, also named Scott among the executives who failed to take action after he brought his concerns to management.
Because the Murdoch family, which controls Fox News parent 21st Century Fox, seems to be picking off executives (and talent, in the case of Bill O'Reilly) associated with the lawsuits and the Ailes culture at the network, many employees believe the purge is far from over.
Roginsky, in her April lawsuit, accused Scott as well as contributor Angela McGlowan and anchor Kimberly Guilfoyle of encouraging Fox News women to "publicly disparage" Gretchen Carlson after she filed her sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes.The suit also accused Scott of encouraging women at Fox News to voice public support for Ailes and stated that Scott and Shine did not take her complaints of sexual harassment against Ailes seriously. Roginsky also named general counsel Dianne Brandi in her suit. Scott has denied the claims and, on Tuesday through a Fox News spokesperson, she released a statement saying she "never asked any women at Fox News — on-air or off — to support Roger Ailes.”
Shine resigned Monday after a brief meeting with Rupert Murdoch during which Shine acknowledged that he’d become a “distraction,” according to an account from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. The company has instituted mandatory sensitivity training with new HR chief Kevin Lord taking on additional duties as head of compliance, reporting to Gerson Zweifach, chief corporate counsel of 21st Century Fox.
But many women inside Fox News remain dissatisfied that current management is still largely populated by longtime Ailes loyalists, including Scott and Brandi, who as general counsel was involved in orchestrating payments to women claiming sexual harassment.
The Murdochs quietly have put out external feelers for a new head of the Fox News empire, which also includes Fox Business Network. A wholesale management overhaul is not seen as imminent, but many observers predict further changes amid more lawsuits (and more distractions). Brandi is seen as particularly vulnerable. Meanwhile, new CFO Amy Listerman, formerly of Scripps Networks Interactive, started her job Monday and is seen as an agent of change at the company.
Perhaps tellingly, Scott was not promoted to Shine’s position as co-president of the network alongside Jack Abernethy, who oversees the business side of the company. (Abernethy also continues to run the Fox Television Stations group.) Jay Wallace, a well-regarded executive who runs the network’s news side, also was promoted Monday.
All of it comes as British media regulator Ofcom is reviewing 21st Century Fox's $22.9 billion bid for the remaining shares of U.K. pay TV provider Sky. Among the agency's criteria is that Fox is a "fit and proper" steward of Sky. A decision is due May 16.
“I do think a couple more executive are vulnerable,” says one insider. “A couple more lawsuits, a couple more executives are shown the door.”