NEW YORK, N.Y. – Fox News Channel founder Rupert Murdoch on Friday appointed two longtime Fox executives as the new co-presidents of the news network as it restructures after last month’s departure of Roger Ailes following sexual harassment allegations.
Both Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine were with Fox News when it started in 1996. Shine, who had been one of Ailes’ top deputies, will run the editorial operations for Fox News and its sister Fox Business Network. Abernethy had left the news channel to run Fox’s stable of 28 local stations and he’ll keep that job, while overseeing the business operations of the two networks. Both will report to Murdoch, who will continue to oversee things as executive chairman.
The moves sent a signal to Fox News viewers that despite a scandal that has widened since Ailes’ resignation, they shouldn’t worry that their favourite network is abandoning them.
Fox also announced Friday that its chief financial officer, Mark Kranz, will retire. Faced with a drumbeat of publicity about the treatment of women at Fox, Murdoch announced the promotion of Suzanne Scott to be the executive in charge of Fox News’ daytime and prime-time programming.
“While this has been a time of great transition, there has never been a greater opportunity for Fox News and Fox Business to better serve and expand their audiences,” Murdoch said.
Murdoch’s son Lachlan, in a recent earnings call for parent company 21st Century Fox, said that he expected no change in Fox’s editorial direction. Friday’s announcement also tamped down speculation that there would be a housecleaning of top Fox executives.
There was no immediate comment from 21st Century Fox on Friday about what the announcement meant — if anything — about the status of an investigation by the law firm Paul, Weiss into Fox’s operations that started after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Ailes.
Since Ailes’ resignation, New York magazine reported that a former booker for the network, Laurie Luhn, alleged that she’d been sexually harassed by Ailes over a period of 20 years at the network. Another former Fox anchor, Andrea Tantaros, said she was let go after she complained about unwanted sexual comments from Ailes; Fox said she was terminated for failing to get network approval of a book she had written.
In both of those cases, questions were raised about how much Shine and other executives at Fox knew about what was going on with Ailes. Shine has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing.
A lawyer representing Tantaros did not immediately return a call for comment on Friday.