The news, when it came, couldn’t have seemed more humdrum.
Entitled “President Donald J. Trump Announces Senior Staff Appointment,” the press release from the White House read simply:
“President Donald J. Trump announced today that Bill Shine will join the White House staff. Mr. Shine will serve as Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications. He brings over two decades of television programming, communications, and management experience to the role. Previously, Mr. Shine served as Co-President of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.”
Look. It is the week of the Fourth of July. People are out of town. Lots of them. And, yes, we have known for a while that Shine was going to join the Trump White House.
But none of that changes the fact that this is a very big story – and not for the reason you probably think.
Yes, Shine is a close confidante of Sean Hannity, the Fox News Channel host and the most powerful informal adviser to Trump. And yes, Shine was a longtime protege of the late Fox News head Roger Ailes. But the fact that Trump views his presidency – and the world – through the decidedly distorted lens of Fox News isn’t new. Having Shine in the White House means that Trump will likely go deeper down that rabbit hole – if that’s even possible.
The real story here – and why this should be a very big deal – is the fact that Shine resigned last year after being accused of covering up a series of sexual harassment scandals involving on-air talent at the network over the last several decades. When Shine was elevated to the co-president in the wake of Ailes’ 2016 resignation in the wake of accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior with co-workers, there was grumbling within the network.
“Shine’s continued leadership has angered many Fox News employees, especially women, who view him as a product of the misogynistic Ailes culture. Shine joined the network in 1996, served as Sean Hannity’s producer, and rose through the ranks to become Ailes’s deputy. In that role, sources say he had the power to stop multiple instances of sexual harassment, including that of former Fox booker Laurie Luhn, but did not do so. (Through a Fox News spokesperson, Shine denies this.) He’s currently a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed this week by former Fox host Andrea Tantaros.”
Days after Sherman wrote those words, Shine was out – resigning on May 2, 2017.
Shine was named in at least four lawsuits or allegations related to alleged sexual harassment or racial discrimination at the network. He has denied all wrongdoing. Tantaros’ lawsuit was later dismissed.
But the idea – at the time – was that while Shine had never himself been accused of any sort of wrongdoing, he had been a leading part of a culture that was toxic to women. The swamp at Fox had to be drained, and Shine was part of that process.
Lisa Bloom, an attorney involved in several of the lawsuits, tweeted: “Having rep’d several Fox News accusers, let me tell you: it’s worse than that. Mr. Shine has been accused over and over again of covering up for accused harassers Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and others, while the women were driven out of the industry entirely. #FillTheSwamp”
And now Shine works in the White House! As a deputy chief of staff and the de facto communications director!
That, in and of itself, should be a big deal. Shine has never made clear what role – if any – he played in the cover-up of the inappropriate actions of Ailes and Fox News one-time star Bill O’Reilly, who was also fired after it was revealed he had settled a number of sexual harassment lawsuits. Once O’Reilly was fired, interest in him flagged – making it possible for Shine to not really answer questions about his behavior. But now Shine works for the American taxpayer. And he is one of the top advisers to the most powerful person in the country. Which changes things. Considerably.
“This …. on the 2 year anniversary eve of filing my harassment lawsuit; giving women a voice, letting them know you can be believed, launching a national movement to stand up and speak up and say enough is enough. Life … works in mysterious ways. #BeFierce”
Then there is the fact that Trump’s willingness to ignore questions surrounding Shine – what he knew, when he knew it and what (if anything) he did about it – appears to be a feature, not a glitch of this White House.
Remember that chief of staff John Kelly was initially supportive of White House social secretary Rob Porter amid allegations that he has abused both of his ex-wives. Kelly was one of a handful of senior White House aides who knew of the allegations of domestic abuse against Porter for months before the story went public and Porter resigned in February. Days after Porter resigned, Trump was still defending his one-time aide publicly; “He says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent, but you’ll have to talk to him about that,” Trump said.
And don’t forget that more than a dozen women have alleged that Trump himself behaved inappropriately toward them over the last several decades. During the 2016 campaign, Trump denied all of the allegations and insisted they were attacks driven by his political opponents. He also promised that after the election he would sue each and every one of his accusers for making false allegations. Trump has filed no lawsuits against any of his accusers to date.
Trump allies are already seeking to cast any resistance to Shine’s hiring as nothing more than the latest fight in the liberal battle against the President and Fox News.
“On your marks, get set…. how long till the liberal media and snowflakes start taking shots at the great Bill Shine,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr. Thursday afternoon. “Competent, hard working and a believer in making America great again!”
That spin misses the point, which is this: Shine resigned under pressure from Fox News amid questions about his role in creating or abetting a culture of intimidation and sexually inappropriate conduct. He now works at the White House. For the most powerful person in the country. And still hasn’t explained much of anything about the circumstances that led to his dismissal from Fox News.