True or not? On the one hand, this comes from Gabriel Sherman, one of Fox’s most relentless critics in the media, a guy who published an unflattering bio of Ailes last year and who offhandedly refers to Fox’s audience as “misogynist” in the course of this very post. On the other hand, it makes all the sense in the world that Ailes would offer Trump a bonanza interview with Kelly after the debate given the mega-ratings that would produce. If you were him, wouldn’t you do the same?
If you’re a true believer in the “Fox News is trying to take Trump down for the GOP establishment” theory, as all Trump fans seem to be since Thursday night, try to assimilate this information.
Ailes offered Trump the chance to do a special on Kelly’s prime-time show to clear the air — an offer Trump flatly refused. “Donald was sufficiently pissed off that there was no way that was happening,” a person familiar with the call told me. According to the source, Trump’s ire was especially stoked after Howard Stern called to tell him about a 2010 interview in which Kelly joked about her breasts and her husband’s penis. Ailes offered other shows, and Trump agreed to appear on Fox and Friends and Hannity, two venues that have been loyal boosters of his candidacy.
Ailes’s next order of business was getting Trump to disarm publicly. According to a source briefed on the negotiations, Ailes called Trump “multiple” times yesterday morning “begging” him to tweet out that they had made peace. Trump refused at first, but finally consented…
But resecuring Trump access could prove to be a temporary victory for Ailes. Having backed down to the GOP front-runner and all but sacrificed one of his biggest stars to appease the conservative base — a.k.a. Fox viewers — Ailes has set a dangerous precedent. The message is clear: Fox reports, but the audience decides.
Says Red State’s Leon Wolf, “Does it bother anyone else that the head of a cable news network assured a Pres. candidate that his network would change its coverage?” If you believe Sherman, Kelly has told Fox execs that she’s getting death threats from Trump fans and is warily watching her ratings this week to see if there’s any boycott effect happening. I’d be surprised, but if we’re obsessing over polls to try to glean the public’s reaction to the debate, we should be obsessing over her Nielsen numbers this week too. As for Ailes, I guess we’ll know if Sherman’s right that Fox is back on Team Trump by the tenor of the coverage going forward. The fact that Fox, including Kelly herself, has largely steered clear of covering Trump’s “blood” remark about her is circumstantial evidence that they are, for now. But it’s a long campaign.
Speaking of the debate, new data from YouGov:
Bad news for Trump and terrible news for his new nemesis Rand, who’s consistently polled terribly in the surveys taken about the debate over the past few days. Presumably some low-information voters got their first real look at him in that angry exchange with Chris Christie over NSA surveillance and it left a sour taste. Trump did place second with 18 percent when Republicans were asked who they thought won the debate (Rubio was first with 19 percent), but when they were asked whether their opinion of each candidate improved afterward, Trump came seventh out of 10 with 22 percent. The person who improved among the largest number of Republican viewers was Ben Carson at 54 percent, followed by Rubio at 45 percent and Ted Cruz at 38. YouGov didn’t ask viewers of the 9 p.m. debate whether their opinions of the various candidates *worsened* afterward, but given that Trump’s favorable rating declined on balance, I’m going to guess that more than 22 percent would have said that it did.
Viewers didn’t disapprove of Kelly and the Fox moderators either, although it’s a close call among Trump fans:
Here’s the Fox News “Special Report” panel last night featuring Laura Ingraham, who pleads near the end for Krauthammer et al. to stop dismissing the concerns of Trump supporters as “emotional” or whatever. Meanwhile, Ingraham herself has now taken to sneering that a populist site like Red State should be known as “Jeb State” for the sin of attacking Trump. Go figure. Trump and his supporters like to warn critics that they shouldn’t throw around insults or else they might stay home on election day or even bolt the party, but it’s Trump himself who’s most prone to insulting his opponents. It’s Megyn Kelly, allegedly, who’s getting death threats from Trump supporters. Criticize Trump for being a fake conservative — which he is, much more so than, say, Mitt Romney was — and you’re apt to be called a RINO, an establishmentarian, a water-carrier for Jeb Bush, and/or on the take from the RNC. It’s weird that Trump fans, who presumably want to see him as president, seem to think they can alienate Trump skeptics at will with no consequences for election turnout. Ah well. I’m sure it’ll all work out next year.