Backlash against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his comments attacking Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly has led to several of his competitors criticizing him and an invitation to speak at the RedState Gathering rescinded late Friday.
As Breitbart News reported, Trump was unhappy with some of the questions Kelly asked him when she was moderating Thursday evening’s GOP Debate, and in an appearance on CNN Tonight on Friday said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Many interpreted this comment as inappropriate or even sexist.
Carly Fiorina, the only female in the Republican presidential primary, was the first among the Republican field to criticize Trump’s words, posting two tweets Friday evening. “Mr. Trump, There. Is. No. Excuse.” and “I stand with @megynkelly,” she wrote, as Breitbart News reported.
Former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) concurred with Fiorina shortly thereafter, posting his own tweet calling it a “sad but predictable meltdown” from Trump and saying that the “outrage at Trump’s divisive language is long overdue.”
Sad but predictable meltdown from Trump. With all due respect to @megynkelly the outrage at Trump's divisive language is long overdue.
— George E. Pataki (@GovernorPataki) August 8, 2015
Trump was originally scheduled to have a plum speaking slot at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta on Sunday, but RedState Editor-in-Chief Erick Erickson rescinded Trump’s invite. He first posted the news on Twitter, calling Trump’s comments “a bridge too far,” and then later followed up with a longer post at RedState explaining his decision.
Erickson, who for years has been a vocal critic of Republican establishment figures like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and wrote a post endorsing the “Sweet Meteor of Death” over former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) in 2012, praised Trump for not being a “professional politician” and for being known as a “blunt talker.”
Trump “connects with so much of the anger in the Republican base and is not afraid to be outspoken on a lot of issues,” wrote Erickson. However, he continued:
But there are even lines blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross.
Decency is one of those lines…
[W]hile Mr. Trump resonates with a lot of people with his bluntness, including me to a degree, there are just real lines of decency a person running for President should not cross.
His comment was inappropriate. It is unfortunate to have to disinvite him. But I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal. It just was wrong.
Erickson concluded by noting that he had invited Kelly to speak in Trump’s place, although it was not yet clear if she would be able to make it given the short notice.
In an interview with Robert Costa at the Washington Post, Erickson said that he had a “combative” phone call with Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, asking him to “clarify the remark.” Erickson was dissatisfied with Lewandowski’s explanation and emailed him to tell him that Trump was no longer invited to speak at the RedState Gathering.
“I didn’t think it was a genuine clarification,” said Erickson. “When I first talked to him, he didn’t want to even admit that Donald Trump made the remark.” Erickson told Costa that Lewandowski kept focusing on the “blood in her eyes” comment and not the second half of the quote, despite repeated questioning, and then tried to characterize it as Trump misspeaking. “I didn’t accept that he misspoke, based on the context of the video,” said Erickson.
Erickson rejected Costa’s suggestion that he was acting as a “referee for the conservative movement to keep Trump from riling the race,” saying that he “didn’t want to give [Trump] a hard time” and did not like that he “had to disinvite him.”
“But there are bounds of what’s acceptable in our discourse and they’re not different for you, or me, or someone else,” he explained. “I’m not going to have a guy on stage with my wife and daughter in the crowd who thinks a tough question from a woman is because of hormones.”
Politico also reported on the story, noting that Erickson told reporters that Trump had “disqualified himself at this point” from the Republican nomination for President and predicted that this would mark the “beginning of the end” for Trump’s campaign.
“When you make comments about a reporter like that —look, I’ve made plenty of comments about reporters in the past, male and female, but I’ve never once suggested one of them was angry because it was her time of the month,” said Erickson. “That’s just a party foul. No candidate should do something like that, I’m embarrassed to even talk about what he’s implying.”
The Trump campaign responded in a statement released to the press attacking Erickson. “This is just another example of weakness through being politically correct. For all of the people who were looking forward to Mr. Trump coming, we will miss you. Blame Erick Erickson, your weak and pathetic leader. We’ll now be doing another campaign stop at another location,” the statement read.
Erickson remained unfazed by Trump’s attack on him, tweeting that he thought that what was really weak and pathetic was “blaming a tough question on hormones” and that it was his event and his microphone, reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan’s famous quote during a 1980 New Hampshire debate, “I am paying for this microphone.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.