What should have been a really, really good year for Fox News just keeps getting worse and worse.
The latest shot: word of the exit of Bill Shine, Fox News co-president, whose resignation was announced by Rupert Murdoch today (May 1). Shine, a veteran Fox executive, had been promoted after his boss, Roger Ailes, was pushed out in the sexual-harassment scandal that also led to the banishment of Fox’s biggest on-air personality, Bill O’Reilly.
Shine, who has not been accused of harassment, has been named in lawsuits that claim he enabled or hid behavior by Ailes. Shine has denied any wrongdoing. But since the scandal broke last summer, there have been questions about how much he might have known about the allegations.
All of which has made for a continuing season in hell for Fox. And an all the more excruciating one because 2017 just wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.
After eight years railing against the administration of Barack Obama, on Nov. 9, 2016, America’s conservative news network claimed its greatest victory to date: Donald Trump would be the 45th president of the United States.
But with the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency just completed, Fox News seems to be on the verge of falling apart.
How did we get here? Last summer, voters across the US were glued to the news as an increasingly caustic election season played out between Trump and Hillary Clinton. The national polls may have been leaning in Clinton’s favor, but Fox News was enjoying a huge audience boost—thanks in no small part to a GOP candidate who is notoriously obsessed with ratings.
Then, after nearly two decades in charge, the network announced executive Ailes was out following a company-wide investigation into claims that he sexually harassed female employees.
The public allegations began with one-time anchor Gretchen Carlson, with whom the company ultimately reached a $20-million settlement.
Another longtime female anchor, Greta Van Susteran, also left abruptly in the fall, after failing to renegotiate her contract.
In the wake of those departures, Murdoch, executive chairman of parent company 21st Century Fox, announced he would step into Ailes’ spot.
“Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country, Murdoch said then. “Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly.”
Ailes founded Fox News more than two decades ago and is widely credited for overseeing its explosive growth.
By November, the multiple scandals had faded into the political background. With election day around the corner, Fox News had its best ratings month in four years, averaging 3.3 million viewers in primetime.
Then in the early hours of Nov. 9, the network called it. “Winning the most unreal, surreal election we have ever seen,” as chief political anchor Bret Baier said, Trump took the presidency. Cue the confetti.
But by January, it became clear that despite the huge win for its man on election night—all was not well at Fox.
The next major loss came when Megyn Kelly, perhaps the network’s most high-profile female anchor, left for a gig at NBC News. The Kelly File host had also accused Ailes of sexual harassment, and was reportedly involved in the company’s investigation into his conduct.
Kelly was one of the network’s most popular hosts among the crucial 25-54 age demographic beloved by advertisers.
And then, in the biggest departure to date, O’Reilly found himself out on April 19.
Fox News moved Tucker Carlson Tonight to the primetime spot formerly occupied by the O’Reilly Factor.
Whether Carlson will be able to deliver on the kind of ratings O’Reilly enjoyed for many years—and allow the network to retain its prominence as the US cable news “powerhouse”—remains to be seen.
But at least Fox didn’t promote Jesse Watters, the O’Reilly show personage, to his on-air boss’ seat. Watters announced on April 27 that he would be taking a vacation after taking heat for an on-air joke he made about Ivanka Trump, a remark critics called lewd.