Bill Shine's White House Appointment Underlines Deep Ties Between Fox News And Trump

Jul 13, 2018
Originally published on July 13, 2018 7:44 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump's new communications chief comes straight from his favorite news network. His name is Bill Shine. And he was forced out for his role in a sexual harassment scandal that went all the way to the top of Fox News, a scandal that forced the resignation of the network's chairman, Roger Ailes. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, Shine's appointment signals the deep ties between Fox News and the Trump White House.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The examples of Trump's proximity to Fox News arrive almost daily. Here's one from earlier today.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: CNN is fake news. I don't take questions from CNN. John Roberts of Fox, let's go to a real network.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Well, we're a real network, too, sir.

JOHN ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. President.

FOLKENFLIK: That warm embrace is returned by Fox in the morning. Last month, Trump popped up live on "Fox & Friends," which just happened to be broadcasting from the White House lawn.

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STEVE DOOCY: What brings you here?

TRUMP: Are we on already?

DOOCY: We're on. We're live.

TRUMP: Oh, wow.

FOLKENFLIK: And he's been equally embraced in prime time by Fox's biggest stars.

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SEAN HANNITY: America is now back and strong and actually leading on the world stage. The apology tour is over.

FOLKENFLIK: Here's Sean Hannity playing offense and defense for Trump.

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HANNITY: Now, let's turn our attention to the deep state tonight.

FOLKENFLIK: Hannity proves to be especially relevant here. Hannity and Shine both grew up on Long Island, and Hannity was a frequent guest on the radio show of Shine's wife Darla before both men joined Fox at the channel's 1996 launch. Over the years, Hannity became one of Bill Shine's best friends. And more recently, Hannity has emerged as one of President Trump's closest advisers. That's right. The president's closest adviser is the top star of Fox News. How tight are those bonds? Fox News' controlling owner Rupert Murdoch is an ally of the president. They talk regularly.

One former Fox News anchor told me that Bill Shine's unique talent was to monitor minute-by-minute ratings to discern what stories turned viewers off and what ones they stayed tuned in to watch from birtherism to Benghazi and the deep state, and also what personalities to have on regularly, including one Donald J. Trump. Here's another former Fox News host, Eric Bolling.

ERIC BOLLING: What Shine is going to bring to the White House is, yeah, he's going to know the audience. The audience happens to be the voters and the taxpayers.

FOLKENFLIK: Bolling now is host of a new show "America" on the streaming conservative video service CRTV. Bolling says the president could use Shine's insight. Bolling is a friend of both men.

BOLLING: To navigate the way the media has been so vitriolic and so divided right now, I think he would be well, well suited to having a wildly experienced, successful media manager at his side.

FOLKENFLIK: Bill Shine told several associates that the formula for his success was simple - Roger Ailes tells me what to put on TV, and then I put it there. The late Roger Ailes was the network's CEO and chairman. Bill Shine was also accused of helping Ailes off the air, too, enabling years of Ailes' predatory sexual harassment against many female employees. In one instance, Shine has acknowledged referring a longtime employee to a psychiatrist after she accused Ailes of extorting her for sex for years. Fox paid her $3 million secretly in 2011. Shine and Fox's top lawyer said they didn't know the accusation was true.

Shine was accused in two lawsuits of retaliating against former Fox News staffers even after Ailes was fired two summers ago. Shine has rejected these accusations and declined to comment for this story. In 2016, then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly pleaded with Shine to stop Bill O'Reilly from going on the air to attack Ailes' accusers. Kelly herself was among them.

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MEGYN KELLY: Bill Shine called me in response to my email promising to deal with O'Reilly. By 8 p.m. that night, O'Reilly had apparently been dealt with. And by that I mean he was permitted with management's advance notice and blessing to go on the air and attack the company's harassment victims yet again.

FOLKENFLIK: This from Kelly's morning talk show on NBC last October. Shine was among the prominent Fox figures she called out for enabling bad behavior by Ailes, O'Reilly and others.

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KELLY: The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation, the silencing of them after the fact - it has to stop.

FOLKENFLIK: O'Reilly has denied all the allegations against him as well. I spoke to eight former Fox colleagues of Shine. Most expressed astonishment, one saying it was scary, another mind-boggling that Shine, given his career and role at the heart of a scandal at Fox, would be at the center of power of the U.S. government.

What might be a problem for others is apparently no problem for Trump, who has himself faced numerous accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault that he denies. Shine serves as a symbol of Fox News' ties to this White House and a reminder of a dark era at Fox that the network would prefer to leave behind. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.