Relax, relax. It’s “highly unlikely” that Megyn Kelly will be doing the interview, per CNN’s sources. I’ll leave it to you to speculate which side is insisting that she not be involved, knowing that a Trump/Kelly interview after the unpleasantness of the last few days would be another ratings blowout for Fox News.
It is “highly unlikely” Trump would appear at 9 p.m. with host Megyn Kelly, the source said, and that’s probably an understatement. Trump has repeatedly and personally insulted Kelly in recent days.
But talks are underway about a Trump interview with another prime time host, like Sean Hannity, the source said, adding that nothing had been confirmed as of Monday morning.
In the meantime, Fox has dramatically ratcheted down its coverage of Trump. It hasn’t covered Trump’s criticisms of Kelly and the two other debate moderators, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier…
Kelly and her bosses at Fox News have said nothing publicly about the “blood” comments. 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.
That seems like a rational public reaction to a guy being asked an uncomfortable question at a political debate. Note to Jake Tapper, who’ll be moderating the next GOP debate and who’s also known for not softballing his interviews: Start vetting bodyguards now, I guess. As for tonight’s interview, a Trump/Hannity chat isn’t the draw that a Trump/Kelly one would be but it’s fascinating in its own right. As one of talk radio’s and Fox’s biggest stars, he’s caught in the middle of the war between Trump defenders on the one hand, which includes some other big radio names, and Trump critics/Fox defenders on the other. It’s unthinkable that he’d go easy on Trump over what he said about his colleague Kelly, but it’s also hard to imagine he’d risk his conservative cred — for Donald Trump is the avatar of conservatism, my friends — by hitting Trump too hard either. He’ll be in a tough spot tonight, if this happens.
And, anecdotally, there is a hint that it might happen. Fresh from Trump’s Twitter feed:
Roger Ailes just called. He is a great guy & assures me that “Trump” will be treated fairly on @FoxNews. His word is always good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2015
So he and Ailes have been chatting and a truce, apparently, has been called. If this thing does come off tonight, and if Trump’s smart, he’ll take the advice allegedly given to him by now departed advisor Roger Stone: Put aside the insult-comic shtick and get back to the message that’s actually driving his appeal.
Don’t get dragged down by petty attacks, Stone counseled Trump, but begin offering an agenda focused on the economy and hammer home what makes you a singular candidate. In a 13-page memo to Trump, Stone urged him to state that “the system is rigged against the citizens” and that he is the lone candidate “who cannot be bought.”
“A builder, an entrepreneur and a capitalist versus a bunch of politicians who are clearly part of the problem” is how Stone framed the contest in the document, obtained by The Washington Post from a Republican working with the campaign. The memo suggested a sound bite: “I’m running because when I look at this field — all perfectly nice people — I know that none of them could ever run one of my companies. They are not entrepreneurs.”
But Trump did not heed the advice. Instead, after briefly flipping through the papers, he decided to wing it — just as he had vowed to do.
Imagine if Trump had spent the bulk of the debate and its aftermath brushing aside his confrontation with Kelly and hammering that point instead. That’s the sort of thing that might have turned him from a celebrity candidate to a serious protest candidate. Stone quit the campaign this weekend, he said, after realizing that Trump wouldn’t or couldn’t get past his grievances with Fox and Kelly and use the post-debate buzz to push his wider anti-establishment message. Why he couldn’t do that is anyone’s guess, but John Fund has a few (unflattering) theories. I’ve been operating under the assumption that Trump’s public persona, at least to some extent, is him playing a character. Not really, says Fund. Maybe that’s why Stone gave up too.
Via the Daily Caller, here’s Trump on the “Today” show this morning saying “you could make the case” that … well, just watch for yourself. Exit question: Why hasn’t Fox News covered what Trump said about Kelly and blood coming out of her “wherever”? I’ve been told for the past 48 hours that Ailes, Kelly, and the rest of the network are on a mission from Reince Priebus and the RNC to sink his candidacy. Yet they’ve been handed that weapon of a soundbite and haven’t used it. How come?
Update: New from Steve Doocy:
— Steve Doocy (@SteveDoocy) August 10, 2015
“Fox & Friends” is probably the single friendliest program to Trump on Fox. He was a regular weekly guest for awhile, if I’m not mistaken.
Update: To my surprise, some readers seem to be taking what I said above, about Fox being on a mission from the RNC to destroy Trump, seriously. It was meant as sarcasm, which I thought was (really) obvious. The people who’ve been telling me that Fox is out to get him are Trump fans angry at Kelly. I wrote about the silliness of the “Fox is trying to ruin Trump!” theories here.