Fox News has suffered a storm of bad press in recent months, and Rupert Murdoch and his two sons, the owners of its parent company 21st Century Fox, are reportedly scrambling to do damage control. Amid sustained backlash against Fox News over the litany of sexual harassment allegations leveled at its top on-air personality, there has been talk of the network's co-president, Bill Shine, being ousted. And a Friday report from The Hollywood Reporter alleging that the Murdochs are seeking a woman to head Fox News as Shine's replacement is adding more fuel to the whopping fire.
Shine first took over as co-president with Fox News veteran Jack Abernethy after founder and CEO Roger Ailes was let go last year, following accusations of sexual harassment by the network's female hosts, including Megyn Kelly. Ailes has repeatedly denied all claims against him, and eventually left the network with a reported payout of around $40 million.
More recently, a New York Times investigation revealed that over the course of several years, either Bill O'Reilly or Fox News handed over some $13 million to women who accused O'Reilly of harassment, sexual or otherwise, in exchange for not pursuing legal action or speaking about it. Similarly, O'Reilly denied all allegations against him. The women had either worked with O'Reilly or appeared on his show, The O'Reilly Factor, one of Fox News' consistently highest-rated shows.
The Times investigation was deeply damaging. Advertisers pulled out of The O'Reilly Show in droves, and protesters descended on Fox News' headquarters in Manhattan to demand for his firing. At the height of the outrage, O'Reilly, Fox News' brightest star, went on vacation — and never returned. While he was away, Fox News confirmed that his relationship with the network was terminated.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Murdochs are bent on sending out a strong message about their commitment to keeping Fox News' working environment "a workplace based on the values of respect and trust" as they had outlined in previous public statements — and what better way to signal their intent than to hire a woman at the very top?
Shine has reportedly received some flak for sweeping prior harassment allegations under the rug; The Hollywood Reporter noted that his promotion as co-president "rankled" some Fox News employees, especially women, who saw him as "complicit in the sins of the past."
But whether a single woman at the top of the company hierarchy could wipe its slate clean is unclear. Fox News' issues seem to run deeper than mere PR problems, and the network's reputation has certainly taken a big, perhaps lasting hit from the fallout of the allegations — one that its loyal viewership likely can't mend at the moment.