Here’s the opening segment from last night’s “Kelly File,” her first show since Trump’s “blood” comments and the Red State brouhaha this weekend. She could have played this two ways: Either go right at the subject and spend 20 minutes discussing it with guests or say something briefly and get back to real news. She chose door number two, which is disappointing if you’ve been groovin’ on all the Trump/Fox drama lately but which, realistically, was her only option. Trump’s been whining that she had it in for him at the debate; if she turned her show last night into a Trump-bashing festival, it would only seem to prove his point. Plus, grousing about the sexism of the “blood” comment would feed the idea that women reporters can’t take the heat like men can, an assumption which I’d bet offends Kelly more than Trump’s wisecrack did. Accused of bias and of being too delicate for criticism, she took the matter in stride and did the professional thing.
Was Kelly really unbiased at the debate, though? Absolutely, says Debra Saunders:
So this is what happens when Trump meets up with the “news” part of Fox News. Conservatives frequently complain about liberal media bias. Then they complain when conservative media practice journalism…
All three moderators asked probing questions that explored each candidate’s weaknesses. That was a service to Republicans who want a nominee who can win in November. Fox News would have been remiss to not include a question about Trump’s big mouth. I can only hope that the know-nothings who trash Fox News Channel without watching its news programs tuned in.
Conor Friedersdorf counters that Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace were biased in the sense that all three surely think Trump’s a clown. Which makes this past weekend a case of Frankenstein wrecking his creator’s lab:
Consider the Fox News debate as Donald Trump fans experienced it. Wouldn’t you wager that Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier all believe that Trump’s candidacy is a joke and that his supporters are naive and misguided? Didn’t their questions seem to imply that Trump is obviously unfit to be president?
Meanwhile, hasn’t Fox News spent years conditioning viewers to believe that journalists belong to a condescending class of decadent elites which engages in barely-concealed conspiracies to destroy anyone who tells it like it is to real Americans? For years, Roger Ailes broadcast everything that Glenn Beck wrote on a chalk board! Surveying America for individuals whose insights he would broadcast to the masses, he settled on Sarah Palin as a person whose analysis he would amplify. It is no accident that a chunk of the Fox News audience is now inclined to side with Trump over Kelly. With Trump’s rise, the network is reaping what it has sown.
Worse, says Elspeth Reeve, it’s Megyn Kelly specifically who’s reaping it, which is guaranteed to cause extra consternation on the right:
Trump is a symbol of an idea with a lot of emotion but not much depth: that if Republicans had the courage to be more mean—less politically correct—they could will their preferred policies into existence. Trump’s great draw—as expressed by both pundits and voters—is that he says what he thinks, without fear of offending people. “He doesn’t know what ‘PC’ means,” a man said at a Trump party in New Hampshire in June. But being un-PC actually means you have the correct political opinions and offend an approved list of targets—Mexican immigrants, Rosie O’Donnell, feminazis, etc. This is why the Trump war got so ferocious. He started picking on someone who was not in the list: Megyn Kelly, one of the brightest stars of the Fox universe.
Exit question: Why didn’t Kelly publicly challenge Trump to come on her show for a “fair and balanced” interview last night? It’d be a nuclear explosion in ratings, and she’d probably relish the opportunity to engage him face to face. Did she pass on that because, again, it would seem too confrontational, or did she pass because her boss is eager to de-escalate this feud?