Scandal-plagued and dogged by multiple allegations in lawsuits and news reports that he oversaw the cover-up of widespread sexual misconduct under the reign of Roger Ailes, former Fox News co-president Bill Shine didn’t have a lot of job prospects after his fall from Fox.
According to multiple people familiar with his thinking, the offers were unimpressive and uninspiring to him. So, according to one Fox insider, Shine spent some of his free time informally advising members of the Trump administration on media and television strategy.
As his ties to Team Trump strengthened, it became clear he had found the one place where the boss not only wouldn’t mind his baggage, but even embraced it as evidence that the world was out to get him, too: The White House.
As the news of an impending hire of Shine began to trickle out late last month, senior White House officials braced for the negative attention, particularly from the press, they would incur from bringing on Shine as a top aide to yet another powerful figure on the American right accused of serial sexual misconduct.
They knew better than to fight it. Instead, officials resigned to power through the “bad optics,” as one West Wing official described, particularly because they had no choice.
“The president wanted [Shine] so what was anyone going to do, say no?” the official asked, rhetorically. Still, senior staffers who’ve interacted with Shine predict that he will further ingratiate himself to the president by casting himself as the kind of trusted lieutenant and impresario relied upon by Ailes, who had also briefly advised Trump during the 2016 campaign.
Trump, who has previously dined and bonded with Shine in the White House (where the president had interviewed Shine for a different job months before he landed his current deputy chief of staff title), has repeatedly told advisers of his admiration for the ousted Fox co-president’s work and past displays of steadfast loyalty. Trump’s preferred complimentary terms of “warrior” and “killer” have come up in several conversations about Shine.
“The President has a great deal of respect for the success Bill has had and he has been a great addition to the team with a wealth of knowledge,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. She, and the recently inducted Shine, are currently on a high-stakes overseas trip with Trump.
And it’s not just respect. Shine enters this next phase of his career, as White House deputy chief of staff for communications, with an especially sympathetic boss—one who views himself, and Shine, as victims of their own respective “witch hunts.”
Over the past several months, Trump has told administration officials and those close to him that the ousted Fox News co-president was railroaded and—in Trump’s words—dealt a raw or unfair “deal” from the conservative media giant, according to three people who have been present for such conversations with Trump.
The president has expressed his view in meetings that Shine—along with the late Ailes who Shine allegedly covered for—were thrown under the bus by Fox before all the facts were known, and all the allegations appropriately and thoroughly vetted. Shine, in Trump’s opinion, is yet another victim of a mob mentality and subversion of due process. The treatment Shine and Ailes received has, according to those close to Trump, reinforced the president’s already existing skepticism and animus toward the #MeToo movement, which emerged just months after Shine’s forced departure.
Trump himself has faced numerous accusations of sexual assault and harassment from multiple women. The official position of the Trump White House is that all of the female Trump accusers are liars, a hardline position that will certainly continue under a Shine comms regime.
John Huddy Sr., an ex-adviser and longtime confidant of Ailes, described Shine as a “facilitator” who like many other network executives, carried out Ailes’s marching orders without question, and would likely do the same for Trump.
“This is Trump telling the media to go fuck itself,” Huddy told The Daily Beast earlier this month.
Some former male, senior-level Fox News colleagues privately agree with Trump that Shine was unfairly pushed out, and vouch for the deputy chief of staff’s character. Huddy, who has criticized Fox News repeatedly and is working on a book about the network, defended Shine’s conduct.
“I can tell you flat out that Bill Shine never harassed anyone. He was beyond reproach in that regard,” Huddy said. (No one is accusing Shine himself of harassing women; he is accused of deep involvement in perpetrating a cover-up of sexual harassment.)
There are, however, other senior Fox veterans who aren’t expected to lavish such praise. Years ago, President Trump’s newly installed communications czar was locked in a bitter, protracted turf war against Michael Clemente, a then fellow Fox News heavyweight also vying to become Ailes’s successor. It was an internal feud largely characterized by warring factions and, according to New York magazine, “some Game of Thrones shit.”
It was a battle, in which Clemente soon found himself on the losing end, that wasn’t without some name-calling. In their respective eras at the conservative media behemoth, Clemente had a special nickname he would privately and derisively toss out when talking about his adversary.
To Clemente and his allies, Shine was Ailes’s simpering “Butler.”
Today, Shine is Trump’s “butler”—a right-wing media enforcer with a decades-long track record of fierce loyalty to his boss. It’s just that now his boss isn’t a scandal-plagued Fox News chief. Instead, his new employer is the scandal-plagued leader of the free world who has for many years fed off of, and continues to draw political influence from, the very Fox programming that Shine once helped mastermind.
In recent weeks, past and present members of the very Fox News family that Shine helped create have publicly cheered on his revival, and in some cases directly appealed to the president. Among those who had actively advised Trump in the past few months to hire Shine is Fox host Sean Hannity, who remains close to Shine and regularly speaks to the president. Neither Hannity nor Shine responded to multiple requests for comment on this story.
Members of the Trump clan, including the president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., also supported Shine’s ascendancy in Trumpworld.
“On your marks, get set.... how long till the liberal media and snowflakes start taking shots at the great Bill Shine?” Trump Jr. tweeted earlier this month, celebrating a White House press release on his hire. “Competent, hard working and a believer in making America great again!”
Bill O’Reilly, a former Fox News icon and ratings star who himself was booted from the network following allegations of sexual harassment, had tweeted last month, “If Bill Shine gets the job of White House communications director, that will be good for the country. Shine is smart and honest. But the President has to listen to him!”
According to The New York Times, Shine had “advocated keeping” O’Reilly at Fox, even following revelations that the anchor had “entered into multimillion-dollar settlements with women who had accused him of harassment.”
Not every former Fox figure or conservative news organization seemed thrilled at the thought of Shine’s comeback, of course.
Shortly after news broke late last month that Shine would almost certainly assume a senior role at Trump’s side, right-leaning media outlet Newsmax began a kick of critical coverage. “Bill Shine Knew Fox News Hired Private Detectives to 'Intimidate Journalists,'” blared one headline that led the site.
Newsmax Media, where Trump confidant Christopher Ruddy is CEO, recently named another axed Fox News executive as its chief executive for Newsmax Broadcasting—none other than Michael Clemente.
Shine’s foe did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
—With additional reporting by Lachlan Markay