Fox News staffers warn Trump to back off of Megyn Kelly after feud reignites; Update: "Unacceptable," "disturbing," says Ailes; Update: Hannity joins in; Update: Trump responds to Ailes

Just flagging this so that we have an easy point of chronological reference for The Day Fox’s Trump Coverage Changed.

The truce is over.

Roger Ailes allegedly warned Trump two weeks ago that if he didn’t lay off Kelly, he and the network would “go to war.” Well, here you go. War.

It’s going to be weird when Hannity hosts his next “Trumpmania! The New American Revolution” special and can’t invite the man himself on to comment. Anyway: Why’d Trump restart this fight? I can think of two explanations and the one you prefer will depend on whether you think Trump operates largely via unthinking ego or wily media savvy. Explanation one: It’s pure hubris. He’s soaring in the polls, he’s (sort of) filling football stadiums with devotees, and he’s the hottest ticket on cable news. He could pick up the phone at any time of day or night and instantly get put on the air on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox. Maybe he figures he’s so bulletproof right now that he can take on Roger Ailes, the most powerful man in conservative media, and win. What’s the worst that can happen? If Fox cuts him off, he’ll spend the next six months doing daily call-ins on CNN and MSNBC about what a loser network full of overrated losers Fox is.

Explanation two: It’s all part of his anti-establishment game. Trump’s core message to Republican voters is that powerful interests, including and especially interests that are ostensibly allied with them on the right like the GOP leadership in Washington, aren’t really looking out for them. On the contrary, those interests routinely sell out the concerns of their base in order to please their wealthy benefactors. Immigration is the ultimate example. A war with Fox will slide easily into that narrative. Apart from a few Trump loyalists like Hannity, he’ll say, Ailes and his network have been bought and sold by the same donor-class losers who are backing Bush and Rubio. They’re an establishment outfit that shouldn’t be patronized by conservatives who want “real change” in Washington. Fox’s leverage against an antagonist like that would normally be to cut him off entirely, but like I say, Trump’s the biggest name in media right now. He doesn’t need Fox to get a TV megaphone. And if Fox takes him on by cutting coverage of Trump way back and unleashing its hosts to excoriate him, it’ll only seem to prove Trump’s point that the network has an anti-populist agenda (with Trump himself being the avatar of populism in this formula). He’ll be frozen out of Fox forever as a guest, in all likelihood, but he’s already lost various media jobs in the course of running for president. What’s one more?

Exit question: How will Ailes play this? I think Inside Cable News is right that it’ll be a “slow play” strategy where Trump’s coverage gets gradually rather than dramatically reduced to make it harder for Trump to claim that he’s being blackballed.

Update: War?

Update: Full-court press from the Foxies:

Update: You didn’t think Trump was going to apologize, did you?

“I totally disagree with the FOX statement. I do not think Megyn Kelly is a quality journalist. I think her questioning of me, despite all of the polls saying I won the debate, was very unfair. Hopefully in the future I will be proven wrong and she will be able to elevate her standards to a level of professionalism that a network such as FOX deserves,” Trump said.

Trump said that what’s more improtant are his high poll numbers.

“More importantly, I am very pleased to see the latest polls from Public Policy Polling showing me at a strong number one with 35% in New Hampshire and the Monmouth University poll showing me, again at number one, with 30% in South Carolina. It was also just announced that I won the prestigious corn kernel poll at the Iowa State Fair by a landslide,” he said. “I will be in Iowa tonight with my speech being live on CNN and other networks. My sole focus in running for the Presidency is to Make America Great Again!”

Her questions were unfair so he’s retweeting people calling her a “bimbo”? This ain’t over.