From the April 30 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources:
BRIAN STELTER: There's one recent headline that perfectly sums up the current situation at Fox News Channel. This is from Hal Boedeker down in Orlando. It says, “Fox News: Good ratings, bad news.” That's right, Fox of course still riding high in the daily ratings race. It's new Bill O'Reilly-less lineup still number one. But it continues to be overwhelmed by a federal probe of the network. We learned this week a second organization is involved, not just the Justice Department, but the postal inspectors as well. They look into things like wire fraud and mail fraud. There are inquiries and interviews about possible misconduct by the friends of Roger. These are the people that were consultants of former Fox News head Roger Ailes.
Then there's Fox co-president Bill Shine. He helped take over when Ailes was ousted last summer. Now there’s reports he might be the next one on the chopping block. He is named in several different lawsuits involving Ailes, involving the culture at Fox. As Dylan Byers wrote this week, he may be the man who knew too much and perhaps also did too little. So what is next for Fox News and for the Murdochs' empire? There's talk as you can see from The Hollywood Reporter about possibly replacing Shine. Let's talk now with two reporters who have been covering this very carefully. The aforementioned Dylan Byers, CNN senior reporter for media and politics, and Erik Wemple, media reporter for The Washington Post. Dylan, tell us about what you were saying about Bill Shine there, that he was Ailes' top, most trusted deputy, that he knew a lot of what was going on inside the company. Is that were you were getting at?
DYLAN BYERS: Yeah, absolutely. Like Roger Ailes, like Bill O'Reilly, there from the inception, I mean there since 1996, very much part of the life blood of that company, the right-hand man to Roger Ailes.
STELTER: And of course no one accusing him of harassment, no one accusing him of that kind of behavior.
BYERS: No one is accusing him of harassment, but like you said, he is named in many of the allegations, named in some of the lawsuits, and so this question is how are you the right-hand man to Roger Ailes and then the co-president of the network, and not be aware of some of the stuff that has allegedly gone on in terms of sexual harassment, in terms of racial discrimination. I mean, let's pull back for a second and just use common logic. It is impossible to think that he could be there for 21 years and not be privy to some of this stuff, especially when you remember that Fox News itself was involved in some of the settlements that were paid to Bill O'Reilly's accusers. And that just raises the question, how serious are the Murdochs about cleaning house at Fox News? Is it going to be a drip, drip, drip, where once every nine months we lose a CEO, we lose our top-rated primetime host? Who are we going to lose in the next six to nine months, or do you come in and do you clean house and do you make a real substantive change to that network? That’s what the Murdochs are wrestling with right now.
STELTER: And two big things happened this week: One, Rupert Murdoch took Bill Shine and the other co-president out to lunch, very publicly; there were photographers that happened to be there. And then at the end of the week, The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie said the Murdochs are quietly looking perhaps for a replacement for Bill Shine. A new CEO.
BYERS: There's the tension by the way between Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch, and that's really what this is all about.
STELTER: Between father and son.
BYERS: Father and son. Is it Rupert's company or is it James' company? And right now it remains Rupert's company, in fact we learned over the weekend he made many of the programming decisions, who was going to be replaced. James is trying to assert himself but he's limited.
STELTER: You know what it reminds me of Erik, it reminds me of President Trump and his children. In some cases Ivanka Trump getting credit for trying to moderate her father. Maybe the same thing happening here with the Murdochs.
ERIK WEMPLE: Well, right. And I think all of us back in July of last year wondered, well why the hell, you're getting rid of Roger Ailes and yet you keep in place his right-hand man, and then now we're back here, 10 months later, nine months later, and oh, maybe we got a problem here. Well, maybe. I mean, this is not really very sophisticated management. If you have a rotten, corrupt network, which Fox is, and you have these problems, then you probably wanted to clean house once, not twice.
STELTER: You're convinced it's corrupt?
WEMPLE: I am. I'm very convinced. As I wrote this week, I think we've seen the corruption on the airwaves over the years with the distortions, particularly on the opinion side. I think the news side is just basically a conservative news organization and stripped of the opinion people like Fox News, which is a complete clown show, and stripped of --
STELTER: You mean Fox & Friends.
WEMPLE: Fox & Friends, the morning show. If they were serious about Fox News being a news network, they would get rid of that program. If Fox News were on CNN, you guys would probably resign from CNN. Let's face it --
STELTER: You and your Fox & Friends --
WEMPLE: But the point is, if they had wanted to start in a new direction after Roger Ailes, they had a chance last July.