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The Murdoch family might be looking to replace Bill Shine as co-president of Fox News after multiple reports named Shine as being complicit in burying sexual harassment complaints by helping to coordinate smear campaigns against women who reported harassment, or pushing them to settle and sign nondisclosure agreements. Shine has also been tied to a racial discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the network, and has been named in a more recent lawsuit for surveilling the private communications of a former Fox host who sued the network for harassment.
Andrea Tantaros Has Sued Fox News For Spying On Her Private Communications “As Part Of A Campaign Of Intimidation”
According to NPR’s David Folkenflik, Andrea Tantaros, former Fox News host and plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network and its former CEO Roger Ailes, has presented a new lawsuit against the network. The new lawsuit, according to Folkenflik, says the network arranged “to have her private communications spied on as part of a campaign of intimidation” that involved Twitter “sock puppet” accounts tweeting the contents of her private conversations after she reported sexual harassment incidents at Fox News.
As reported by NPR, Tantaros’ lawsuit says that “Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf.” According to multiple articles, Shine has reportedly participated in retaliation campaigns against women who have reported sexual harassment within the network and has “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.”
This is not the first time Fox has been accused of spying on the women who report sexual harassment: in 2004, the network paid private investigator and former network contributor Bo Dietl “to dig up information” about former producer Andrea Mackris, who reported sexual harassment from now-ousted Fox host Bill O’Reilly. Other claims in the lawsuit seem to corroborate previous reporting, such as Folkenflik’s reporting on Fox’s past use of online “sock-puppet accounts” to spread misinformation and attack perceived rivals, as well as New York magazine’s reporting by Gabriel Sherman detailing the use of a “black room” used to “conduct PR and surveillance campaigns against people [Roger Ailes] targeted, both inside and outside the company."
It’s also not the first time a company owned by Murdoch has been accused of hacking or spying. Fox News allegedly sought through “legally questionable means” the private communications of Media Matters senior reporter Joe Strupp, who had written articles citing “anonymous Fox sources.”
The incidents are also consistent with the Murdochs’ -- whose company 21st Century Fox controls Fox News -- shoddy journalistic practices involving hacking. In 2011, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was involved in a phone hacking scandal that had them face legal consequences. As explained by NPR’s Folkenflik, “a bribery and hacking scandal at their London tabloids led to the closing of a newspaper, the criminal conviction of a former editor in chief, millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of a potential $11 billion takeover of a big British broadcaster called Sky.” In yet another example, News America Marketing, a division of News Corp., “illicitly accessed its competitor’s password-protected website,” while the two companies were reportedly “at war.” Tantaros’ lawsuit is just the latest allegation of misdeeds against Fox News. From David Folkenflik’s April 24 NPR article:
A new lawsuit filed Monday by a suspended Fox News host accuses the network and senior executives of arranging to have her private communications spied on as part of a campaign of intimidation.
The host, Andrea Tantaros, alleged in a previous lawsuit that she had been sexually harassed by former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and former top-rated Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. That suit has been stayed while her complaints against the network are being heard in binding private arbitration. All defendants, through their own representatives or through Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox, vehemently denied Tantaros' initial allegations.
In Monday's federal lawsuit, Tantaros alleges that Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf. Ensuing tweets, she says, reflected knowledge of details of intimate conversations and exchanges with family members and friends. Tantaros alleges this was done to try to undermine her resolve in challenging the network on sexual harassment.
The case appears to build on a recent report by Salon's Matthew Sheffield. He reported that Fox News under Ailes allegedly paid for "sock puppet" accounts online to promote his private agendas, and also covertly supported the development of blogs that sexualized the network's female hosts and anchors. Tantaros' new suit names, among others, the head of a digital media consulting company who had a prominent role in Sheffield's account.
The suit alleges a rise in offensive material on social media accounts directed toward Tantaros in early 2015, when she says she first notified Shine and other Fox News executives that Ailes had harassed her. Then in May 2016, according to the complaint, several Twitter accounts started to post material suggesting direct knowledge of her conversations.
The phrase "hacking" carries particular resonance for the Murdoch family, which controls Fox News. In 2011, a bribery and hacking scandal at their London tabloids led to the closing of a newspaper, the criminal conviction of a former editor in chief, millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of a potential $11 billion takeover of a big British broadcaster called Sky. The Murdochs are now back in front of a British regulator, once again attempting to take over the 60 percent of Sky they do not already control.
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New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman: "There's Talk Inside Fox News That Tonight's Show Could Be His Last"
New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman is reporting that multiple Fox News sources are saying Fox News host Bill O’Reilly could be off the air permanently.
Under pressure from advertisers and the network, O’Reilly announced on the April 4 edition of his show that he was taking a “vacation.” According to Sherman, James Murdoch the CEO of Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox, “would like O’Reilly to be permanently off the air.” James’ father Rupert, older brother Lachlan, and Fox News co-president Bill Shine are pushing for O’Reilly to remain on air:
Embattled Fox News host Bill O’Reilly announced tonight that he is taking a vacation. O’Reilly’s decision to go off the air in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal and advertiser boycott arguably has the appearance of a suspension, but O’Reilly worked to dispel that notion. He announced that he’d scheduled his trip “last fall” — well before the New York Times reported he paid $13 million to settle harassment claims. A Fox News source told me O’Reilly plans to return to his show on April 24.
But according to four network sources, there’s talk inside Fox News that tonight’s show could be his last. Lawyers for the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer by 21st Century Fox to investigate Roger Ailes, are currently doing a “deep dive” investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior. They’re focused now on sexual harassment claims by O’Reilly guest Wendy Walsh after she reported her claims via the company’s anonymous hotline.
Shine remaining in O’Reilly’s corner comes as no surprise. Shine was previously accused of coordinating a campaign to silence women who have reported sexual harassment at the network. In a complaint filed last year, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros claimed she met with Shine seeking “relief from” sexual harassment at Fox News, but he told her she “needed to let this one go.” Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky alleged that Shine retaliated against her after she refused to publicly attack an accuser of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and Sherman previously reported that Shine played a key role in “smearing” Rudi Bakhtiar, who claimed she was fired from Fox News after complaining about sexual harassment.
The report of O’Reilly’s possible departure comes as Fox News continues to lose advertisers following a New York Times report that five women received payments totaling nearly $13 million from either O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their” accounts of sexual harassment involving O’Reilly.
Until it’s actually official, those participating in @StopOReilly effort as well as participants in groups like Sleeping Giants, should not take anything for granted and continue their work and effort.
A timeline depicting the reports of sexual harassment many women with professional careers at Fox News have made about powerful network figures over the years shows a pattern of corporate retaliation, victim-blaming, and million-dollar payouts for silence.
In over 40 segments from March 11 through 13 that discussed President Donald Trump’s firing of Preet Bharara, who was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Fox News failed to disclose that Bharara was investigating multiple potential crimes committed by the network, including allegedly hiding financial settlements paid to women who accused former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.
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According to sources from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, President Donald Trump is angry that CNN and CNN chief Jeff Zucker do not grant him the favorable type of coverage he receives from Fox News
Trump has made it no secret his contempt for CNN, recently lambasting the network’s ratings in a January 24 tweet praising Fox’s inauguration coverage.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
Trump’s tweet comes on the heels of his January 11 attack on CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, refusing to answer the journalist’s questions and calling CNN “fake news.” After the press conference, Acosta was threatened by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who said he would remove Acosta if he treats Trump disrespectfully. The next Sunday, Trump’s team failed to appear on CNN’s Sunday news program, State of the Union, but sent representatives to MSNBC, Fox, CBS, and ABC.
Trump also attacked the network before and immediately after the election, questioning the credibility of the network, and attacking individual journalists as dumb, lightweights, who aren’t real journalists.
According to a report from Gabriel Sherman, Trump’s antipathy towards CNN may be personal.Sherman quoted one high-level CNN source as saying, “Trump thinks just because he’s known Jeff that CNN should be covering him like Fox News does”:
According to people close to both sides, Trump has told White House staffers that he feels personally betrayed by CNN chief Jeff Zucker.
Trump complains that Zucker should be programming CNN more favorably toward him because of their long relationship, which can be traced back to 2004 when Zucker put The Apprentice on NBC. Trump has also said to White House staffers that Zucker owes him because Trump helped get him the job at CNN.
According to CNN sources, Trump’s claim that he assisted Zucker in landing the top job at the network is false. Trump seems to have gotten the idea because he praised Zucker to Turner Broadcasting’s then-CEO Phil Kent at a charity dinner in the fall of 2012, a few months before CNN hired Zucker. But CNN sources say Turner had already decided to hire Zucker by that point. “This is entirely personal,” one CNN high-level source said. “Trump thinks just because he’s known Jeff that CNN should be covering him like Fox News does.”
Following Megyn Kelly’s announcement that she will be leaving Fox News for NBC, the network moved quickly to install pro-Trump host Tucker Carlson into her prime-time slot. Fox’s move cements its ongoing audition to serve as Trump’s go-to network for spreading his agenda, which has included the network devoting disproportionate airtime to his candidacy, then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes advising Trump, and network figures shielding and defending him from negative coverage. Trump also retreated to the network toward the end of the campaign, and since his election he has considered or selected a number of Fox News figures to serve in his administration.
New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reports that according to Fox News insiders, Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s replacement on Fox “will be a pro-Trump conservative.”
On January 3, Megyn Kelly announced that she will be leaving Fox News for NBC, saying in a statement on her Facebook page, “I have decided to end my time at FNC, incredibly enriched for the experiences I've had."
According to insiders who spoke with Sherman, “the Murdochs will choose a woman” to replace Kelly in her nightly 9 PM slot, and all agree “that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative”:
Inside Fox News, staffers are speculating over who will replace Kelly. According to insiders I spoke with today, the consensus seems to be that the Murdochs will choose a woman to fill her 9 p.m. time slot. The leading internal contenders include Trish Regan, Shannon Bream, Sandra Smith, and Martha MacCallum. Two sources said Kimberly Guilfoyle is lobbying for the job.
The one thing Fox insiders are in agreement on is that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative. In the wake of Ailes’s ouster, some media observers speculated that 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wanted to reposition Fox to the center, bringing it more in line with his moderate political views. But the selection of a pro-Trump host to fill Kelly’s slot would suggest that Fox is instead doubling down on its right-wing politics and planning to align itself with the new administration. After initially being hostile to Trump, Murdoch has made moves to curry favor with the president-elect. Fox insiders told me that Murdoch personally named pro-Trump anchor Tucker Carlson to replace Greta Van Susteren at 7 p.m.
Murdoch’s relationship with Trump has greatly improved since the depths of Trump’s battle with Kelly last year. “I really like Rupert Murdoch!” Trump told guests at Mar-a-Lago over the holidays, according to an attendee. “Roger Ailes was a friend of mine, but Fox’s coverage is so much better since he left.”
If Fox News’ politics ultimately solidify as more pro-Trump than they were during the campaign, that might be to the benefit of Murdoch’s business interests. According to a well-placed source, Trump has asked Murdoch to submit names for FCC Chairman. Murdoch, another source said, also wants conditions put on the AT&T-Time Warner merger, and he could lobby Trump to make that happen.
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