The Fox News Channel (FNC) appears to be backing down under criticism from 2016 GOP frontrunner billionaire Donald Trump and others, and is now asking the real estate magnate to appear on the network again.
Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, called Trump personally on Monday— according to Trump—assuring him that his network would be fair after what many saw as a questionable performance in last Thursday’s debate in Cleveland, Ohio, by anchors Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier. Many observers believed that the Fox News trio ganged up on Trump, asking him some questions that many thought crossed the line.
Trump himself believes agrees that the “Fair and Balanced” network was out of line, and so does initial polling showing he hasn’t seen any drop whatsoever. Those polls suggest that Kelly, Wallace and Baier failed in what many saw as their single-minded quest to take out Trump. And though Fox News is still a powerhouse cable network, even they aren’t invincible as evidenced by Ailes calling Trump to ask him to come back on the network.
“Donald Trump and the Fox News Channel are in talks about Trump possibly appearing on Fox on Monday night, according to a source with knowledge of the talks,” CNN Money reported on Monday. “Trump has been lambasting Fox for days, ever since he was challenged in last week’s GOP debate. He has complained that the Fox moderators were unfair to him during the debate.”
“Roger Ailes just called,” Trump tweeted, signaling that the brief firefight between him and the network that many thought tried to take him down in Cleveland out was coming to an end—as Fox’s top officials scramble to find a way out of the mess they created. “He is a great guy & assures me that ‘Trump’ will be treated fairly on @FoxNews. His word is always good!”
Late Monday, CNN Money reported on a quote from Ailes.
“Donald Trump and I spoke today,” Ailes said in a statement to CNN Money. “We discussed our concerns, and I again expressed my confidence in Megyn Kelly. She is a brilliant journalist and I support her 100 percent.”
“I assured him that we will continue to cover this campaign with fairness & balance. We had a blunt but cordial conversation and the air has been cleared,” Ailes added.
Interestingly, through this whole period of tension, Trump has always counted Roger Ailes himself as a friend—he has never blamed Ailes for the conduct of, for example, Megyn Kelly.
“Things are a little tense now between the Trump and Fox camps, but the two principals, Trump and Ailes, have always been friendly, and they’ll be chuckling about this incident soon enough,” one longtime Fox News insider told Breitbart News.
In fact, on Monday evening, Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen appeared on Sean Hannity’s television program—and on Tuesday Trump himself will appear on two separate Fox News programs, Fox and Friends in the morning and Hannity’s show at night.
Citing an anonymous source, CNN Money continued by noting that Trump’s tweet “may increase the chance that Trump will appear on Fox Monday night.”
“It is ‘highly unlikely,’ however, that Trump would appear at 9 p.m. with host Megyn Kelly, the source said, and that’s probably an understatement,” CNN Money wrote. “Trump has repeatedly and personally insulted Kelly in recent days.”
Kelly has come under serious fire for what she did during the debate in Cleveland on Thursday night.
Without citing any specific examples, she came at Trump with a very aggressive line of questioning about rhetoric he’s used.
“Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter,” Kelly asked Trump. “However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.’”
“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump joked in response.
“No, it wasn’t,” Kelly fired back.
The audience had already made its mind up. The crowd was cheering wildly for Trump, and laughing at Kelly.
“Your Twitter account…” Kelly stammered.
“Thank you,” Trump basked in the audience applause.
“For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell,” Kelly attempted to press on. “Yes, I’m sure it was,” Trump replied.
Again, without providing any evidence to back up her question, she fired again.
“Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks,” Kelly scolded Trump. “You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Trump replied to the most thunderous applause of the evening.
When the crowd quieted down, Trump followed up.
“I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness,” Trump said. “And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody. And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.”
The crowd applauded again.
“But you know what, we — we need strength, we need energy, we need quickness and we need brain in this country to turn it around,” Trump finished his answer. “That, I can tell you right now.”
What’s ensued since that exchange in Cleveland is a bitter back-and-forth between Trump and Kelly—one that the anchors and reporters at Fox News have decidedly downplayed or ignored on their programs—in which Trump has criticized Kelly for what she did.
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” Trump said of Kelly during a CNN interview with Don Lemon—a comment many in Republican circles, including Fox News Contributor Erick Erickson and several of Trump’s competitor candidates, interpreted to mean Trump was talking about Kelly menstruating. Of course, Trump says that he wasn’t making that sort of comment at all—he says he was talking about Kelly’s nose, carrying on his mental image of “blood in her eye” to elsewhere in her face —but Erickson nonetheless chose to disinvite Trump from his Red State Gathering in Atlanta because of it.
Over the weekend, Trump appeared on several Sunday news programs on other networks than Fox News.
“This is a true clash of titans. Fox News is the favored network of Republicans, and Trump is the Republican campaign front-runner,” CNN Money wrote, adding later that Kelly is a little bit freaked out that the whole mess might hurt her standing as a journalist.
“Kelly and her bosses at Fox News have said nothing publicly about the ‘blood’ comments,” CNN Money wrote. “Privately, though, they are disgusted by what Trump said and by the response from some of his supporters. There has been so much invective directed at her on the Internet that it’s created security concerns for Fox. Kelly does not want to be seen as a victim; rather, she wants to stay above the fray and be seen as an independent-minded journalist. There will surely be a lot of interest in what she says — and doesn’t say — on her 9 p.m. program on Monday night.”
In addition, CNN Money added that “Ailes’ role in all this is critical.”
“He was a masterful Republican media consultant for decades before creating Fox News,” CNN Money wrote. “He is widely regarded as a television genius and a conservative power broker.”