Got a goose that lays golden eggs? C’mon, let’s kill it:
“I don’t know if it was the RNC, or Fox, or whoever, but it certainly appeared to look like an organized attack,” [Trump special counsel Michael] Cohen said. “Obviously, somebody, you know, doesn’t want him to continue to rise in the polls. They need to figure out how to stop this movement.”
Trump is currently the front-runner in Republican primary polls. During the debate, he faced tough questions from Fox News moderators on his past comments about women, his business record, and his controversial positions on immigration. In the hour after the debate, Fox News featured Luntz’s focus group, as well as commentary from hosts and guests who described Trump’s performance as a “collapse.” Cohen described this as an “insidious” attempt to spread the perception Trump lost the debate.
“They attempted to create a negative narrative of Mr. Trump both during and after the debate but failed,” Cohen said. “Their actions are insidious and not in line with viewers or the American people as Mr. Trump won, according to three independent polls.”
Among those who agree with Cohen about the tenor of questioning is … Trump nemesis Lindsey Graham? Huh?
“This was more of an inquisition than it was a debate,” Graham said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday morning. “It was a missed opportunity to talk about things that really mattered.”
Graham charged that debate moderators Bret Baier, Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly were particularly unfair in their questioning of Trump, the outspoken billionaire who is leading many GOP polls.
“At the end of the day, ask the man a question that explains his position and his solutions rather than a ten-minute question that describes him as the biggest bastard on the planet,” Graham quipped.
The “Fox is out to get Trump” theory is silly on the merits but savvy as a narrative for Trump fans. Even if you think Fox News is RINO Central, on a mission from God and Reince Priebus to nuke Trump so that he doesn’t threaten the establishment’s hold on the GOP nomination, there’s no reason for Fox to come after him now, when we’re still many months away from a meaningful vote. On the contrary, Team Jeb considers Trump’s presence in the race a godsend; if Fox is quietly on the Bush bandwagon, they should want Trump to hang around for awhile and keep his boot on Rubio’s and Walker’s throats. If they’re determined to take him out eventually, there’ll be plenty of time to do that this fall. In the meantime they can prop the guy up, give him as much exposure as he wants, and milk him for every drop of ratings they can get. I’ll be shocked, in fact, if Megyn Kelly doesn’t publicly challenge him on tonight’s “Kelly File” to come on her show and take questions for the full hour. But like I say, it’s savvy to accuse Fox of being out to get him: The jet fuel in the rocket of Trumpmania is that the GOP powers that be can’t handle the hard truths he’s been telling (like how effective single-payer health care is). All Cohen’s doing here is moving Fox into the category of “GOP powers that be.” Makes perfect sense, even if it’s a novel — and potentially fascinating — thing for the Republican frontrunner for president to engage in open warfare with the right’s most trusted news network. Now we get to watch and see which side big-name conservative pols and media stars take in that war. Rush Limbaugh, staying on the right side of righty populism, has apparently already chosen his side. Glenn Beck, an ex-Foxie, seems to be on the other. Hannity, a talk-radio and Fox News star, may be caught in the middle.
For what it’s worth, there’s an obvious reason why Kelly was especially hard on Trump and it has nothing to do with Fox being in the tank for the RNC. She’s known for being a rare mega-star at Fox who’s not obviously and reliably conservative, and she knew she’d have an audience of mostly non-regular viewers last night who’d be curious to see if she lived up to that hype. If she softballed him, she’d never hear the end of it from critics who’d pronounce her a fraud and a shill who’d rather protect Fox’s golden goose than ask him a tough question. If you want to accuse Kelly of having ulterior motives rather than simply give her credit for asking the sort of uncomfortable questions Trump would inevitably be forced to answer later as nominee anyway, at least be smart enough to frame the conspiracy in terms of personal ambition rather than her supposedly doing some dopey favor for Reince Priebus. She knew she’d have the biggest audience of her life and she’s keenly aware of her status as arguably the biggest star among the new generation of women news anchors. (Six weeks ago she said it’d be “epic television” if she interviewed Hillary Clinton since it would involve a “powerful woman talking to somebody who is also a woman in a powerful post.”) If she plans on ever leaving Fox for a bigger gig, this was her chance to impress future viewers and broadcast-network CEOs by challenging Trump, including and especially on the things he’s said about women. Wouldn’t surprise me if Roger Ailes himself thought she was too hard on him, but so what? She knew what she had to do and she did it. Hat’s off. Exit question via Erik Wemple: “Did we just watch Megyn Kelly get too big for Fox News?”