For all of our Trump fans, a sweet little morsel left over from yesterday’s Gabriel Sherman post about the latest eruption of the Trump/Fox war.
Are there any Fox News hosts so obsequious towards Trump that they might dial him up and beg him to come back, like Johnny Fontane pleading with the Godfather to help him get that part he always wanted? Seems hard to imagine for most of them. Emphasis on “most.”
One reason there likely won’t be peace in our time is that Trump still has not gotten over Kelly’s questioning of him during the opening Republican primary debate. “She caused me a lot of damage, didn’t she?” Trump recently vented to a friend. “He’s really angry,” a source explained…
Both sides are posturing to save face. Yesterday a Fox statement called Trump’s boycott “stale and tiresome.” But a source close to the Trump campaign told me that Trump thinks he has the leverage. Trump has been hearing from Fox hosts who are worried that his boycott will hurt ratings. The calculus seems to be that by shunning Fox, Trump is hoping to drive a wedge between Fox hosts, Kelly, and Ailes. That may be wishful thinking. As an Ailes friend told me today: “Roger can’t turn back. The entire credibility of Fox as powerbroker rests on Trump being destroyed.”
That theory about Trump’s strategy would be more plausible if he hadn’t attacked Kelly with that nasty bit about bleeding out of her whatever, which was bound to create sympathy for her among her colleagues. I think the real strategy here is straightforward: Boycott Fox and cast them in the role of Republican establishment villain, a bad place to be for a network that presumes to cater to the Republican man on the street. Even if Fox’s ratings don’t begin to dive right now, the seeds will have been planted among pro-Trump viewers that Fox can’t be trusted. Eroding their populist credibility among their viewer base is a process and he’s trying to move that process along.
This bit from Breitbart seems plausible too:
An individual with knowledge of these matters told Breitbart News that Ailes is “furious” at Lowry for saying on Megyn Kelly’s program The Kelly File on Wednesday that former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina “cut [Trump’s] balls off with the precision of a surgeon, and he knows it, he knows it.”
Ailes is mad at Lowry because this move means, in the ongoing war between Fox News and Trump, Fox News has now “given up the moral high ground.” Essentially, Ailes understands, that means his network looks like the unfair aggressor that Trump has accused it of being—rather than a neutral arbiter of the news—all while Trump continues soaring in the 2016 GOP primary polls.
On the one hand, that lends a bit of credence to Sherman’s theory about the wedge that Trump is supposedly trying to drive between Kelly and the rest of the Fox universe. Colleagues who sympathized with her over the “bleeding” remark might not be as sympathetic now that her show was used by Lowry to throw a scatological insult back at Trump. It’s one thing for Fox to cover him unsparingly, it’s another thing to deliberately antagonize him. On the other hand, that supports my theory too that Trump’s true aim mainly is to hurt Fox’s credibility with its populist viewers. The litmus test for whether a media outlet is “establishment” is whether it’s treating him “unfairly,” whatever that means. Lowry’s comment about Fiorina cutting his balls off is something that a viewer who’s not sure about his critique of Fox could point to as proof that Trump’s right and that they really are out to get him. It’s unimaginable that the same sort of “balls” taunt would be aimed by a guest at, say, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. So now Ailes needs to make a big show about entertaining Trump’s grievances in order to show his fans among the Fox viewership that he’s taking their concerns seriously.
Here’s Bobby Jindal goofing on Trump and his “Bible” at the beginning of his speech to the Values Voter Summit today. At around 15:00 he calls Trump “narcissistic” and gets a fair amount of applause for it. Hmmmmm.