October 24, 2021

Trump, Fox reach ceasefire

trump_081115gettyDonald Trump and Fox News appear to have agreed to a ceasefire.

Fox News President Roger Ailes said that “the air has been cleared” with Trump following a “blunt but cordial conversation,” in a statement obtained by CNNMoney.

Megyn Kelly, the Fox News anchor targeted by Trump, stated on her show Monday evening that she had “decided not to respond” to his attacks.
She defended her journalism, but also described the GOP frontrunner as “an interesting man who has captured the attention of the electorate.”

For his part, Trump on Monday tweeted about a friendly conversation with Ailes, and scheduled interviews for Tuesday on “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.”

The de-escalation followed a raucous debate last week that left Trump fuming over his treatment by the cable network, which he suggested had gone after him.

Trump revels in controversy but many GOP strategists believe he went too far in his comments about Fox — specifically in saying during an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon on Friday that Kelly, one of three co-moderators of the debate, had questioned him as if she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

The comment was widely perceived as a reference to menstruation. Trump has insisted that he was alluding to Kelly’s nose, and a statement from his campaign on Saturday argued that “only a deviant would think anything else.”

The remark got Trump disinvited from the conservative RedState Gathering on Saturday. And many Republicans insisted that the furor was more toxic than the storms Trump has weathered in his campaign to date over denigratory comments about Mexican illegal immigrants and Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) record in the Vietnam War.

“Because of the nature of it — and the tone of it, and the beyond the pale things he has said about Megyn Kelly — yes, it’s different,” said David Winston, a longtime GOP strategist and pollster. “It’s virtually incomprehensible that he doesn’t get it.”

Many GOP insiders say that the fact that Trump’s remarks were directed at a host for Fox, rather than any other news network, multiplies the potential for damage to his candidacy.

“It’s just about the only media organization where he can’t benefit from attacking them,” said Douglas Gross, a Republican activist and one-time gubernatorial nominee in Iowa. “All the others, he benefits from attacking.”

Winston was even more scathing: “He’s complaining about tough questions? What does he think being President of the United States is going to be like?”

Still, it is not at all clear whether Trump acknowledges that the the battle with Kelly and Fox has hurt him. Moreover, a central part of his appeal so far has been the idea that he is an uncompromising figure unwilling to bow to politically correct sensibilities.

“In fairness to Trump, I’m not sure he has been trying to pick a fight with Fox,” said one Republican strategist who declined to be named. “It seems he has been picking fights with everyone. That picking of fights seems to be one of the qualities that his supporters like best.”

Some media critics have suggested that Fox has its own motivations to calm the troubled waters with Trump.

New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, the author of a critical, unauthorized biography of Ailes, wrote on Monday that the Fox supremo had reached out to Trump via phone in part because of “increasing concern inside Fox News that Trump could damage the network.”

The danger for the network was that conservative viewers would come to share Trump’s belief about bias, the story suggested.

Sherman also reported that Fox host Sean Hannity had been told by Trump in a separate phone conversation that the business mogul was “never doing Fox again.”

That implicit threat had gone by the wayside by late Monday, with the two Trump appearances on Fox being confirmed for Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, even as Trump refused to apologize to Kelly, he seemed to be laying the groundwork to make peace with a network beloved by many Republican voters.

“Roger Ailes just called,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “He is a great guy & assures me that ‘Trump’ will be treated fairly on @FoxNews. His word is always good!”

Trump’s comments on Kelly fueled criticism about the GOP frontrunner from his rivals. They were met with especially strong criticism from businesswoman Carly Fiorina, the only woman among the 17 mainstream candidates for the GOP nomination.

“Mr. Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse,” she tweeted on Friday.

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton also weighed in, calling the comments “offensive, outrageous” while speaking to reporters at a campaign stop in Exeter, N.H.

While Kelly said she would offer no further comment on Trump, some think the GOP candidate will make an appearance on her show at some point.

Last week’s debate got huge ratings for Fox, and a Trump-Kelly rematch would be sure to bring a big audience.

“I doubt it becomes Trump versus the network at the end of the day,” said the anonymous Republican strategist. “And I suspect he does an interview with [Megyn] Kelly at some point too. Think of the ratings bonanza that would be.