Scandal After Scandal: How will Fox Deal with its Sexism Problem?

Another day, another Fox scandal.

Just a few days after anchor Jesse Watters announced he was taking an unexpected vacation, Fox co-president Bill Shine announced he would also be taking a leave of absence. Shine’s will be indefinite.

These sudden departures of two prominent Fox News figures can be attributed to the growing public knowledge of the troubling culture at Fox. Four scandals in the past 12 months, which began with Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit against Roger Ailes last summer, have all seemed to center around a central theme: sexism. How is Fox going to stem the tide that is sweeping away their top moneymakers?

The two most recent suspensions of Watters and Shine are sexism-based. Watters made lewd comments about Ivanka Trump live on TV, and Shine seemed to reinforce the sexist culture of Fox News.

Shine, who had been at Fox since its inception in 1996, was a trusted aide to former head Ailes and was promoted to co-president after Ailes was forced out last summer.

“Shine had become a flashpoint for outside critics and Fox News employees, especially women, who saw him as representative of the sexist culture that flourished under Roger Ailes,” said Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman in an article for New York Magazine.

Many, including Sean Hannity, who was also the target of a sexual harassment suit, were against Shine’s removal and were open about their feelings on twitter.

The other part of Fox’s bad week comes from Bill O’Reilly protégé Watters.

On April 26, Watters commented on a video of Ivanka Trump in Berlin, saying, “I really don’t get what’s going on here, but I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone.”

Both men were recently promoted by Fox. Watters, who was previously a reporter for “The O’Reilly Factor” before O’Reilly’s departure, now has his own show in the prime-time slot, and Shine was promoted after the firing of Ailes.

These blows come after O’Reilly and Ailes both ended their time with Fox amid sexual harassment accusations.

The fun doesn’t end there. Megyn Kelly left Fox in January 2017, citing “a new challenge” and wanting more time with her family.

Kelly had faced sexist heat from then presidential candidate Donald Trump, as well as criticism for her silence surrounding the Ailes lawsuit.

“No one’s expecting her to come out and defend him like some of these other people have,” said a television industry insider to The Daily Beast, “but just some sign of appreciation for the man who gave her the opportunity would suggest that she’s not just out for herself.”

With so many Fox favorites leaving the network, the leaders will be forced to re-evaluate its brand and image.

As Fox looks ahead, it is clear the organization has change on its mind — particularly in the appointments of Suzanne Scott to president of programming and Jay Wallace as head of news.

Scott, former deputy of Shine, and Wallace have both been with Fox for over 20 years and were frequent supporters of Ailes.

Most of the attention thus far has been on Scott, who was the product of the Murdochs’ search for a woman to run the network.

“While the ascension of a woman to a top leadership role is a marked change for Fox, Scott’s appointment shouldn’t be seen as a culture change,” Sherman wrote in New York Magazine.

Scott was even named in several lawsuits as part of the sexual harassment problem at the network, particularly enforcing the “miniskirt dress code.”

Scott was most notably named in the suit of Andrea Tantaros, which claimed the network “masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.”

She was also involved in monitoring former Fox employee Laurie Luhn while Ailes allegedly carried on a psychologically and sexually abusive relationship with Luhn, although Scott denies knowing about the relationship.

While having a woman at the helm may help the network in its public image crisis, Scott’s track record indicates she may not help solve Fox’s severe sexism problem.

“Let’s be clear: Fox News’ culture of misogyny, racism and sexual harassment is not just the case of a few bad apples ― it’s a deeply rooted culture, one that Scott has defended and contributed to for years,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the women’s rights group UltraViolet, told HuffPost in an email. “At this rate ― Fox News’ problems are not going away anytime soon.”

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