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For Fox News, Co-President Bill Shine Was Also a Potential Legal Problem

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Fox News President Bill Shine resigned on Monday and if you’ve been closely following the sexual harassment allegations surrounding Fox News, and all of the ongoing legal action, it probably will not come as much of a surprise. With many discussing this as a business decision, a question of culture and a “clean up,” there were also legal questions.

Back in August, Rupert Murdoch lauded Shine as having the ability to lead the network for years to come when he announced Shine’s promotion after Roger Ailes was ousted.  But there were undeniably serious lingering questions that the organization and the general public had largely ignored about Shine’s involvement in the sexual harassment scandals that rocked the network over the last year.

Shine was no fresh face to Fox News. He’d been there since 1996, and if you believe some of the dozens of women who have come forward documenting the alleged sexual harassment and discrimination they faced at the network, he was well aware of what was going on.  To be clear, Shine has never been accused of sexual harassment himself. Instead, women who worked at Fox have alleged he knew about the harassment, was slow to act, didn’t act at all, or helped the allegations “go away.”

I wrote about how he was a huge legal liability for the network in August, and since then, more women have come forward. Shine’s name has come up again and again with little action taken by the network, until now.

As a refresher, I put together a list of the times Bill Shine’s name has come up in the litigation/fallout surrounding claims of sexual harassment at Fox News. To borrow a quote from the network, I’ll report, you decide:

# 1 Fox News Democratic Strategist lawsuit against Ailes, Shine, and Fox News Network.

The most troubling allegations against Shine come from Julie Roginsky, who filed a lawsuit against the network, Ailes, and Bill Shine earlier this week. What is most surprising — and maybe makes her claims even more believable — is that Roginsky is still employed with Fox News, and even appeared on the network on Tuesday. So by pointing the finger directly at Shine, Roginsky was calling out the man who was her current boss, and the man who had total control of her career, for what she believes to be illegal conduct. That’s a pretty bold move, if she’s just making all this stuff up about him.

In her lawsuit, Roginsky alleges that Shine retaliated against her because of her complaints of harassment at the hands of Roger Ailes and because she refused to badmouth Gretchen Carlson (who also sued Ailes for sexual harassment) and join “Team Roger.” The lawsuit claims Shine “aided and abetted Ailes’ acts of retaliation and harassment.”

In the lawsuit, Roginsky states that she had a meeting with Shine on July 29, 2016, after the revelations about Ailes started coming out in the media. Shine allegedly told Roginsky that “everything they are saying about Roger is true.” How the heck did he know that?

Roginsky further claims that she had another meeting with Shine on November 29, 2016, where she informed him of Ailes’ sexual advances. “They were not surprised to hear this: they already knew it,” the lawsuit states. She claims even after this meeting, Shine took no action to investigate, and did not encourage her to report what happened to Paul Weiss, the law firm tasked with investigating the scandal.

“Years before the Gretchen Carlson case, Shine and other senior executives at Fox News should have conducted independent investigations of Ailes’ conduct and taken steps to protect like Roginsky from his predatory and harassing practices. Instead, Shine and other senior executives kept Ailes’ conduct secret and enabled it,” the lawsuit states. (I have repeatedly tried to get comment from Fox News on behalf of Shine with regards to this lawsuit, but have not heard back.)

# 2 In former Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros’ lawsuit, Bill Shine is also one of the named defendants

In her lawsuit, Andrea Tantaros alleges that she told Shine, who was Fox News Senior Executive at the time, about Roger Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment towards her. The lawsuit states:

Perhaps the most shocking encounter of all was a Spring 2015 meeting between Tantaros and Fox News Senior Executive, Defendant William Shine (“Shine”), during which Tantaros sought relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her. In response, Shine told Tantaros that Ailes was a “very powerful man” and that Tantaros “needed to let this one go.” Yet, after Ailes was revealed to be a sexual predator and was forced to resign, Shine was promoted to Co-President of Fox News. Shine’s inexplicable elevation sends the message that it will be “business as usual” at Fox News when it comes to the treatment of women.

Her attorney alleges that while Roger Ailes may have been the “primary culprit,”  his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants “who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation, and retaliation.” Fox News has disputed the claims in Tantaros lawsuit and Shine noted in previous interview that “Andrea never made any complaints to me about Roger Ailes sexually harassing her.” But still, Tantaros raises serious questions about Shine’s involvement and knowledge of what happened.

#3 In allegations leveled by former Fox News booker Laurie Luhn. 

In another interview, former Fox News booker Laurie Luhn alleged she was sexually harassed by Roger Ailes for twenty years. She said Shine helped Ailes set-up their private “booking” meetings in New York. Shine has confirmed he set up booking meetings, but says he wasn’t aware the two were in a relationship.  Luhn also said that when she suffered a mental breakdown following years of “psychological abuse” by Ailes, Bill Shine helped arrange a flight to Houston so she could check into the Four Seasons. And there is this, according to the same New York Magazine article:

A high-ranking Fox source confirmed that Fox moved Luhn to New York so Ailes could monitor her. Luhn remembers staying at the Warwick Hotel for six weeks. During this time, she said, Ailes told her he needed to approve all of her outgoing emails. “I’d show him all the emails I’m getting,” she recalled. For several weeks, he marked them up and would “dictate exactly” how to respond. “You don’t have friends,” she recalled Ailes telling her. “I’m your friend. I’ll protect you.” He told her to also forward her emails to Bill Shine for review, she said. “The second floor” — where top Fox executives work — “was in charge of my life. I wasn’t in charge,” she said.

Shine also denied that.

New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman, who has been a longtime thorn in the side of Fox News, accused Shine of playing a role in a ‘cover-up’ of the sexual harassment claims.

“They (Bill Shine and others)  pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid. These women needed to make a living, they signed nondisclosure agreements and as we have seen for the last 19 years, these allegations were not private,”  Sherman said.

#4   In former Fox News Reporter Rudi Bakhtiar claims against another Fox News executive 

Shine’s name also came up in the story of former Fox news reporter Rudi Bakhtiar who also claimed she was retaliated against after being harassed by executive, Brian Wilson in 2006.  Bakhtiar eventually settled with Fox News “for an undisclosed amount.” However, she broke her confidentiality agreement this summer, and spoke to The New York Times about what happened. In her case, Bakhtiar also claimed she told Shine about the harassment, and he encouraged her to report it.

To be clear, an allegation is just that — an allegation, but in addition to cultural issues about Fox, there is no question that Shine’s continued role at Fox also raised potential legal concerns as well.

Note: An earlier version of this article appeared on April 4, 2017.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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