Sean Hannity is looking to leave Fox News, according to sources, following the resignation of Fox News co-president Bill Shine officially on Monday.
Shine was Hannity’s long-time ally whom he personally recommended the network hire two decades ago to produce Hannity & Colmes. In recent days, Hannity warned it would be the “total end” of Fox News should Shine leave, and he rallied conservative activists to back him up.
Initially, insiders said, Hannity’s army of lawyers had hoped to discuss with Fox ways of protecting his 8-year-old primetime show, amid fears that Lachlan and James Murdoch—fresh off the ousting of Bill O’Reilly—were looking to push the network away from hard-right politics.
However, with Shine’s departure on Monday, one source told The Daily Beast, there’s no reason for Hannity to stay.
“The network now belongs to the Murdoch sons,” another Fox insider said after learning that Shine was gone.
One insider speculates that the negotiations could end this week and Hannity might be out by Friday. Another said his final show could even be tonight or Tuesday evening, given Shine’s Monday resignation.
Fox News, however, said in a statement speaking on behalf of Hannity and the network: “This is completely untrue.”
Shine, long considered Roger Ailes’ right-hand man, was named in multiple lawsuits against Fox as having been an enabler of both Ailes’ and O’Reilly’s alleged serial sexual-harassing. In one particular case, ex-host Andrea Tantaros alleged that Shine actively coordinated a campaign to retaliate against her for her accusations against the now-deposed Fox News creator. And according to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, who first reported Shine’s resignation, female Fox News staffers considered circulating a petition calling for his firing.
But to some Fox News conservative vets like Hannity, Shine was the remaining bulwark against the Murdoch sons, who are seen as “liberals” trying to radically reinvent the network in the model of a mainstream cable-news rival like CNN.
Hannity warned last week on Twitter that firing Shine would be “the total end of the FNC as we know it. Done.” He started a “#IStandWithShine” hashtag, and in his final tweet before a self-imposed “shutting down” of his feed, Hannity on Sunday promoted a Facebook page called “Stop the Scalpings.”
That page was created by former talk-radio hosts and Fox News guests Brian Maloney and Melanie Morgan, who say they’ve become alarmed by rumblings of a more “liberal” Fox News ever since O’Reilly’s firing.
“We know that one termination opens the door for many others,” Maloney told The Daily Beast. “We don't condone workplace misbehavior, but also knew that Bill O'Reilly's removal from Fox meant no one was safe. It was immediately obvious that Sean Hannity would be next. It's guilt by association.”
The page’s purpose, Morgan explained, is to “sound the alarm that conservative icons are under attack, respond, defend against slander, libel, and other defamatory comments that live forever, and then attack back.”
Morgan, a former KSFO host, referenced allegations by former Fox guest Debbie Schlussel that Hannity had “propositioned” her at a hotel bar years ago—a claim she later clarified to be definitively not sexual harassment after media outlets including The Daily Beast picked up her accusations—as an example of liberals “hoping to clear out the ‘Old Guard’ of activist conservatives.”
Their prime target, she said, is Hannity.
“We're standing up for [Sean] because he has earned the respect of both broadcasters and politicos alike, by building coalitions, focusing on the broadcast and avoiding prima donna behavior,” Maloney added. “We will do the same for others who face similar circumstances.”
Their fight is not about saving Fox News, however, as the pair posted poll to their followers outright asking whether Hannity is better off starting his own media venture. And with Hannity’s exit looking inevitable, they are certain he will have made the right decisions.
“No one wants to see Sean leave his TV home for the past 20 years,” Morgan noted. “But his audience will follow him anywhere.”