New White House deputy chief of staff and communications chief Bill Shine was questioned by federal prosecutors last year as part of a criminal probe into how Fox News, his former employer, handled sexual harassment claims, The New York Times reported Friday.
Shine, former president at Fox News, was never accused of sexual harassment but was fingered in multiple lawsuits for covering up for sexual misconduct of his former boss, the late Roger Ailes, ex-chairman of the network.
Ailes in July 2016 was fired from Fox in disgrace as dozens of women made sexual harassment claims against him and the network. Fox has reportedly paid out more than $100 million in fees in cases during the time period Shine ran the network with Ailes.
The Times viewed documents showing that Shine was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in a criminal probe, but he instead chose to give a voluntary interview to U.S. prosecutors from the Southern District of New York.
Specifically, prosecutors were investigating whether Shine was engaged in intimidation tactics -- including a discrediting campaign -- against the many women who made claims of sexual misconduct against Ailes and others at Fox News, the Times reported.
The paper said prosecutors were also examining whether Fox had misrepresented settlements made to women on their financial statements, potentially a crime for a public company.
Shine was never charged, and the status of the investigation remains unclear, the Times reports.
Shine was ousted by the network in the aftermath of the Ailes saga.
“He was never accused himself of sexual harassment,” former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren told the Times. “He was only accused of looking the other way.”
Lisa Bloom, an attorney who represented several former Fox employees who made harassment claims, says Shine played a significant role in the company’s efforts to squelch such complaints.
After news broke of Shine’s White House appointment, Bloom 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”
The Times also reported on a civil shareholder suit filed against Fox that included allegations that “Mr. Shine was directly involved in the case of Laurie Luhn, a former Fox News booking agent who received a $3.15 million settlement in 2011 after making allegations
that she experienced 15 years of sexual harassment and psychological torture by Mr. Ailes.”
“According to the complaint, Ms. Luhn said that the harassment escalated when she started reporting directly to Mr. Shine, with Mr. Ailes regularly demanding that she provide phone sex and recruit other young women for him,” the Times said.
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