The former Fox News executive tasked with steering the Trump administration’s rudderless communications operation has an unimpeachable reputation for shaping the national conversation of America’s right wing. His reputation for allegedly covering up the sexual wrongdoings of some of the network’s most powerful men, however, is far from seaworthy.
Bill Shine, former co-president of Fox News and henchman for the late Fox News founder and chairman Roger Ailes, reportedly accepted a gig as the new White House communications director on Wednesday, the Trump administration’s sixth in 18 months.
The first public-relations conflagration Shine may be tasked with stamping out, however, could be his own hiring.
Shine’s tenure at the conservative cable-news network ended with his resignation following internal criticism of his handling of numerous sexual harassment complaints against on-air talent and Fox News executives, including Ailes himself.
Shine was named in at least three lawsuits against the network alleging that he helped facilitate—and, in some cases, actively covered up—a climate of workplace sexual harassment.
In one lawsuit, filed by former Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky in April 2017, Shine was accused of failing to investigate the numerous sexual-harassment accusations against Ailes that were brought before him, and of engaging in “intentional discrimination, harassment and retaliation with malice and reckless indifference” to Roginsky’s own claims of sexual harassment against Ailes.
Roginsky’s suit alleged that during private meetings with Shine, he would repeatedly cite the Showtime documentary History of The Eagles to illustrate that Ailes was just like the drama-prone ’70s rock band—a “gift to the world,” despite his flaws. (The Eagles’ flaws included creative tensions between frontman Glenn Frey and guitarist Don Felder; Ailes’ flaws included alleged serial sexual abuse of the women in his employ.)
Laurie Luhn, a former Fox News booking director who accused Ailes of serial sexual harassment spanning years, accused Shine of arranging her travel to meet Ailes for clandestine assignations at the Fox chief’s request—all under the guise of “booking meetings.” Luhn has also said that Shine coldly referred her to mental-health professionals for treating the mental breakdowns she suffered as a consequence of Ailes’ abuse. In an interview with New York magazine, Luhn said that Shine even called her father once in the hopes of having her involuntarily committed to a mental facility.
“Bill Shine sent me to a San Antonio psychiatrist,” Luhn later wrote of the experience in a letter to Ailes. “It was a true nightmare. What I really needed was sleep, and maybe some sort of counseling. Instead, what I got was a doctor who immediately prescribed very dangerous, serious meds. Those drugs made me hallucinate for over a year.”
Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit shortly after Roginsky’s, alleging that the network illegally spied on her and used the information to “emotionally torture” her. In the suit, Tantaros accused Bill Shine, as well as three other high-level Fox News executives, of having surveilled her phone and email communications to “intimidate, terrorize, and crush her through an endless stream of lewd, offensive, and career-damaging social media posts, blog entries and commentary” as retaliation for a lawsuit alleging that Ailes and disgraced former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly had sexually harassed her.
The allegations in the suits against Fox News are in keeping with Shine’s reputation inside the network as Ailes’ chargé d’affaires, with two decades of unyielding loyalty to the man who built the most highly rated cable news network in the country. Nicknamed “The Butler” by others within the network, Shine is frequently described as having served as Ailes’ “henchman,” “enforcer,” and “executioner” at Fox News.
One of Shine’s few defenders within the network, primetime host Sean Hannity, is also a close friend and adviser to President Trump, whose search for a new communications director following the departure of longtime aide Hope Hicks in March has lagged under the weight of inter-West Wing turf wars.
Hannity and O’Reilly both offered glowing praise of Shine on Wednesday, amid the reports of his impending new gig. “I think it would be great because he's great at his job,” Hannity told his radio listeners. “If Bill Shine gets the job of White House communications director, that will be good for the country,” O’Reilly tweeted.
Besides informal advisers like Hannity, President Trump has also made a point of filling his administration with former Fox News staffers, on-air personalities and executives like Shine. Former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert currently serves as the spokesperson for the State Department; longtime Fox News commentator John Bolton serves as Trump’s national security adviser; Fox News commentator Mercedes Schlapp, currently the White House’s director of strategic communications, was considered a potential frontrunner for the job given to Shine.
Some of the connections are even closer: Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle is currently dating the president’s newly separated eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.