Bill Shine, the former president of Fox News, resigned from his position as White House communications director on Friday, the fifth person to leave that role under President Donald Trump. He will be joining the president’s re-election campaign, which is not an uncommon transition for a White House official to make mid-term.
But Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, pointed out that there’s an ominous cloud hanging over Shine’s White House tenure:
While in government—
Shine receives $$ from Fox
Gives Hannity a high 5 at Trump event
Strips Fox competitor of WH credential
Ends regular press conferences, thereby giving Fox an advantage as to its access to POTUS + WH
Can't get financial disclosure approved
Quits abruptly https://t.co/KKvzLt5WgL
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) March 8, 2019
Indeed, New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer found in a bombshell article this week that Shine has been receiving a $7 million payout from Fox News while he’s been working at the White House. Some speculated it may even have been Mayer’s revelations that triggered Shine’s departure.
“In December, four Democratic senators sent a letter to the White House counsel’s office, demanding proof that Fox’s payments to Shine don’t violate federal ethics and conflict-of-interest statutes,” said Mayer.
“Because Bill Shine had Fox stock options, the criminal conflict of interest law required him to recuse from any ‘particular matter’ affecting Fox’s interests. A ‘particular matter’ includes a matter affecting an industry (news media) or parties (the outlets with WH credentials),” said Shaub Friday on Twitter.
The pulling of the press credentials, mentioned in the tweet above, refers an incident in which Trump’s White House pulled CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s pass in November 2018. CNN challenged the decision in court and won immediate relief, and the White House essentially backed down. But Shine had initially signed a letter revoking the pass, a decision Shaub now suggests he shouldn’t have been involved in.
“Shine received an authorization under an impartiality regulation to meet with Fox. But that authorization did not waive the conflict of interest law. I wonder if anyone can explain how the WH communications director meets with Fox without affecting its financial interests,” said Shaub. “I have no idea why Shine resigned, and I’m not implying these things caused his resignation. But these are things the media ought to be asking the WH about. Fox News could start by sharing information about any meetings it had with Bill Shine. Or does state media not do that?”
Shine’s highly dubious arrangement receiving pay from both the White House and Fox News at the same time, all the while making government decisions that affect Fox’s bottom line, raises serious concerns. But the fact that these highly irregular conflicts have gone largely under the radar also speaks to the fact that Trump’s administration is so wildly scandalous that many people may feel they’re able to get away with behavior that would not otherwise be tolerated.