FOX News becomes “Survivor”: Jesse Watters, Bill Shine to be ‘voted off the island’ next?
UPDATE, 4/28 1:45pmEDT – The Hollywood Reporter drops this dookie in the FOX News punchbowl:
The Murdochs may be preparing for a leadership change at Fox News. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, CEO and co-chairman of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox, have quietly put out feelers for a new head of Fox News. And the preference, according to two sources familiar with the Murdochs’ thinking, is that the new leader be female.
The move comes as pressure is building on Bill Shine, a 20-year Fox News veteran whom Rupert Murdoch elevated to co-president, with Jack Abernethy, of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network in the wake of the ouster of founding CEO Roger Ailes last summer. Shine runs the programming arm of the media empire, while Abernethy, also a longtime Fox News executive, runs the business side of the company, including ad sales, finance and distribution. On April 24, a few days after the network dismissed Bill O’Reilly, Rupert Murdoch took Shine and Abernethy to lunch at the Central Park South eatery Marea; the outing was interpreted as a public show of support and chronicled on multiple media sties.
In December, Shine and Abernethy announced a new head of human resources. Abernethy is credited with recruiting Kevin Lord, a veteran of NBC and General Electric who most recently worked at the digital media company Tegna. On April 10, they announced the hiring of a new CFO, Amy Listerman, formerly of NBCUniversal and Scripps Networks Interactive; she is due to begin work on May 1. Former CEO Mark Kranz, who was forced out last August, has reportedly been granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation with a federal investigation into the structuring of payments to women who complained of sexual harassment.
The Murdochs have been feeling increased pressure to make good on their public statements to foster “a workplace based on the values of respect and trust.” Putting a woman in the top spot at Fox News would send a distinct message given the issues that have been roiling the network. The feelers are external; though it’s possible that someone could get promoted from within.
Look who suddenly had to take a Billo-the-Klown-style “vacation”:
Jesse Watters, the Fox News host who took heat this week for making a joke about Ivanka Trump that was criticized as lewd, said on Wednesday that he would be taking a family vacation until Monday. The move came just three days after his show began airing in a new high-profile time slot.
Mr. Watters, who denied that his comment about President Trump’s daughter was sexual, announced his upcoming absence near the end of Wednesday night’s edition of “The Five.” He will miss two days of the show’s first week in prime time after it took over the 9 p.m. slot from “The O’Reilly Factor,” and he will miss his “Watters’ World” show on Saturday.
He “denied that his comment about President Trump’s daughter was sexual.” Riiiight…
[W]hile hosting “The Five” on Fox News Channel on Tuesday, he] criticized people booing her as she defended her father’s attitude toward women while holding a microphone on stage at an event in Germany. Then he added: “I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone.”
The moment sparked online criticism from MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and New York Post columnist John Podhoretz.
Meanwhile, one of FOX News’s ringleaders is having a bad episode of flop sweat:
As Fox News is roiled by lawsuits and the ouster of Bill O’Reilly, the network’s co-president Bill Shine has retained the backing of the Murdochs. On Monday, Rupert Murdoch took network co-presidents Shine and Jack Abernethy to lunch at Marea, a seafood restaurant near Fox’s midtown headquarters — a highly public show of support.
But privately, Shine is expressing concern about his future at the network. According to three sources briefed on the conversations, Shine has told friends he recently asked Rupert’s sons James and Lachlan — the CEO and co-chairman, respectively, of network parent company 21st Century Fox — to release a statement in support of him, but they refused to do so. The sources said Shine made the request because of withering press coverage of Fox News in recent weeks. A source added that Shine has privately complained that Rupert “isn’t fighting for him” in the press, which is why he wanted explicit support from the sons. …
By refusing to back Shine at this tumultuous moment for the network, the Murdochs may finally be signaling that they’re prepared to make the sweeping management changes they’ve so far resisted after forcing out CEO Roger Ailes last summer. Shine’s continued leadership has angered many Fox News employees, especially women, who view him as a product of the misogynistic Ailes culture.
Our own sources close to NewsCorp say the situation is far worse than Gabe Sherman depicts: Shine was in effect running corporate defense and acting as a de facto enforcer for the harassers at the top and below him.
The next few days and weeks will reveal how serious the NewsCorp overlords are with respect to cleaning up the misogynist Mad Men culture promulgated by Ailes and protected by the likes of Shine.