Bill Shine is the fifth person to learn that it’s not easy to serve as communications director to a president who doesn’t think he needs one.
Trump on Friday accepted the resignation of Shine, a former Fox News executive who had spent just nine months on the job, severing his most visible link to the conservative network — but likely not changing his relationship with the Trump-friendly outlet.
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Shine will join the president’s reelection campaign as a “senior adviser” — a role that will allow him to spend “more time with my family,” he said in a statement Friday, suggesting he will take on something less than a senior leadership role in the campaign.
His sudden departure came as a surprise to several White House aides as well as to a number of officials working on the president’s campaign, several of whom learned he would join the team on Thursday. The Trump campaign has spent the past month building out a communications team and it was not immediately clear what Shine’s portfolio as an adviser to the campaign would comprise, according to two people close to the campaign.
Shine, 55, is a protégé of Roger Ailes, the late chairman and CEO of Fox News. He spent decades as a senior executive at the network before joining the White House in July, just two months after he was pushed out of Fox, accused of helping Ailes cover up the sexual harassment and misconduct that had forced his own ouster.
Trump has complained to allies that Shine, though never accused of sexual harassment himself, was named in several lawsuits related to his time at Fox, according to a person who spoke directly with the president about the subject.
While Shine embodied Trump’s cozy relationship with Fox News, his departure is unlikely to change it. Fox employs a raft of pro-Trump hosts with whom the president chats on a regular basis, including the network’s marquee host, Sean Hannity.
It was not immediately clear whether the president urged Shine to resign, but Trump allies say the president never developed a strong rapport with him.
Shifting media coverage of Trump amid the relentless scandals engulfing his administration would be a mighty challenge for anyone. But Trump had privately complained that he hoped for a more noticeable improvement of his public image than Shine has been able to deliver.
Shine became the fifth person to serve as Trump’s communications director when he was named to the job last July. As has been the case with his predecessors, Shine faced the challenge of overseeing messaging for a president who considers himself a media savant and his own best spokesman. Shine departs during a particularly rough patch for a president who is battling multiple scandals, investigating Democrats and rebellious Republicans.
“Ultimately the communications operation in this White House is going to be led by the president, and that’s been clear since the campaign,” said Jason Miller, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser who briefly served as communications director for Trump’s presidential transition.
Miller suggested that Trump won’t be in a hurry to install a direct replacement for Shine.
“At this point, I would be more surprised if they find someone new as opposed to just expanding some of the duties of communications director, putting them under [White House press secretary] Sarah [Sanders]’ watch, and delegating some of her portfolio to recently promoted deputies.””
Trump and his aides — who are personally fond of Shine — had only positive things to say on Friday.
The White House issued a glowing statement in the president’s name. “Bill Shine has done an outstanding job working for me and the Administration. We will miss him in the White House, but look forward to working together on the 2020 Presidential campaign, where he will be totally involved,” Trump said in a separate statement, while his press secretary Sarah Sanders called Shine’s departure “a big loss for the White House.”
But Trump soon wound up grousing in private that Shine — who was absent last week during Trump’s nuclear summit in Vietnam — hadn’t managed to improve Trump’s image or his fraught relationship with the White House press corps.
One Republican close to the White House said Shine’s impact “has been barely noticeable,” and the former Fox News executive surprised some Trump allies by failing to shake up the president’s overwhelmed, barebones communications office. Nominally a deputy chief of staff, Shine spent little time on management and focused instead on the production side. That has meant prepping Trump for prime-time interviews, staging his rallies and organizing sit-downs with print reporters, according to a person familiar with Shine’s role.
Trump is widely seen inside the building as his own communications director — a media mastermind who can change a news cycle with a single tweet and who has been known to grumble when aides encroach on his spotlight. It may be telling that, despite holding the job for just nine months, Shine leaves with the title of longest-serving Trump White House communications director.
Shine, who led Fox News’ programming department for 12 years, was a key conduit between the White House and Trump’s favorite news network, from which he has collected dual paychecks for months. (Shine continues to collect severance payments from the network.) In December, four Democratic senators sent a letter to the White House counsel’s office requesting evidence that Shine’s income from Fox didn’t constitute a conflict of interest or violate ethics guidelines.
Shine departs a week after The New Yorker published a damning report on Trump’s close relationship with Shine’s former employer, Fox News. Democratic National Committee officials cited that report earlier this week when they barred the network from hosting any of their 2020 primary debates.
Shine’s predecessor, Hope Hicks, left last February and later took a top-level position at Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox.
The New Yorker report also cited the lawsuits against Fox that have named Shine, along with other allegations that Shine helped to cover up Ailes’s abusive behavior.
Trump’s reelection team has already named Tim Murtaugh as communications director and Kayleigh McEnany as press secretary. Three other communications staffers were also announced earlier this week.
Campaign manager Brad Parscale described the incoming adviser as “a gifted communicator” in a statement that did not include specific details about Shine’s role.