Scott Named First Female Chief Executive of Fox News

Posted May 17, 2018 4:41 p.m. EDT

The Murdochs named Suzanne Scott the new chief executive of Fox News on Thursday, making her the first woman to lead the cable news network even as her appointment marked the elevation of an executive closely tied with the old regime that was largely ousted in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.

Scott, who joined Fox News at its inception in 1996, rose through the ranks over the years to work in several programming, production and creative positions. Last year, she was appointed president of programming and development amid an executive shake-up that followed the firing of the network’s founding chairman Roger Ailes.

In her new role, Scott will oversee both Fox News and its sister network Fox Business. She will report to Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch, the top executives at 21st Century Fox who also will run the “proposed new Fox,” the slimmed down media conglomerate focused on news and sports that will remain after the proposed sale of most of 21st Century’s entertainment assets to the Walt Disney Co.

In a statement, Lachlan Murdoch said that Scott had “been instrumental in the success of Fox News.”

“Her vision and innovation have helped create some of the most popular and lucrative primetime programs on cable and as we embark on the era of the proposed New Fox, I am confident that Suzanne’s leadership will ensure the dominance of both Fox News & FBN for years to come,” he said.

The appointment makes Scott the only woman in charge of a major cable news network or broadcast news division. The post of chief executive, previously held by Ailes, had been vacant since his departure.

The appointment amounts to a Murdoch vote for the status quo at Fox News, which has weathered the exits of Ailes and several leading personalities — including its top-rated star, Bill O’Reilly — and come out where it started: No. 1. Fox News remains above its rivals CNN and MSNBC in the ratings and is routinely the most-watched channel on all of basic cable.

Scott is credited with overseeing programming at the network during that period, which included reworking its prime-time lineup following O’Reilly’s ouster.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to take on this new role and very thankful to Rupert and Lachlan for their leadership and confidence in me to run Fox News,” she said in a statement. “I am beyond proud of our incredible team and the success we have built as a network.”

After Fox’s sexual harassment scandal burst into public view in the summer of 2016, the Murdochs pledged that it would be a new era at the channel. The network went through a number of management changes, including hiring a new head of human resources, appointing women to executive roles in finance and ad sales, expanding training and creating more ways for employees to report harassment or discrimination. The company also created a new workplace culture panel. Scott has led a number of networking and mentoring initiatives designed to advance women at the channel, including a monthly women’s breakfast series.

Yet Scott’s promotion means that a top executive during the Ailes era remains in charge at the network.

Scott had been cited in lawsuits against the network as a figure who enabled and concealed Ailes’ behavior. She has denied any wrongdoing and many of those disputes have since settled, including a $10 million settlement reached this week to resolve a group of racial and gender discrimination lawsuits.

But with the Murdoch empire contracting with the jettisoning of Fox’s entertainment arm, the estimated $1 billion in revenue that Fox News reels in annually is that much more important to the family’s bottom line.

And while the network’s leaders had signaled, in the face of an expected Hillary Clinton victory in 2016, that Fox News’ coverage could tack to the political center, the channel has instead doubled-down on tough-edged conservatism and supporting President Donald Trump, hiring the hard-right commentators Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin. Thursday’s announcement included the news that Jay Wallace, another longtime Fox News executive who also started in 1996, was promoted to president and executive editor of Fox News. He most recently worked as president of news and editorial at the network, where he oversaw news programming, including political coverage.

In addition, Jack Abernethy, a trusted Murdoch hand who worked as co-president of Fox News since August 2016, will relocate to Los Angeles and continue in his role as chief executive of the Fox Television Stations Group.

In a statement, Lachlan Murdoch said Abernethy had been a “steadying force at Fox News during the last 21 months, establishing extensive policies and procedures while streamlining management and installing respected industry executives in key roles, all of which achieved our goal of creating a more transparent work environment.”