And guess who Donald Trump told this to? Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, whom he says “has done a really great job” moderating debates in the 2011-12 cycle. In this December 2011 interview with Kelly, Trump seems to have no issues lauding her capabilities as a debate moderator. He also has no problem talking about how “shocking” it was to have Michele Bachmann refuse to participate in his debate, and how “disappointed” Trump was with Mitt Romney for taking a pass as well. “We’re not seeing a lot of courage here,” he tells Kelly:
It’s actually quite the charmfest between Trump and Kelly in this interview from the previous cycle. He compliments her as a debate moderator, and she expresses her appreciation for his relationship with his children. Neither one of them seem ill at ease at all. Now that Kelly has become a moderator in debates that challenge Trump, however, the tycoon has obviously had a change of heart.
Trump’s campaign manager accused Kelly of being obsessed with Trump earlier today on Morning Joe:
Lewandowski then dismissed claims that Trump’s exit from Thursday night’s contest means he fears scrutiny from journalists.
“It’s very hard to appear with someone from a network which is going to be as biased as it has been against him,” he said, referencing debate moderator Megyn Kelly.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Lewandowski continued. “What we know is that Megyn Kelly is totally obsessed with Mr. Trump. She has done show after show about why the media shouldn’t be having him on television.[“]
Hmmmm. To some, it appears that the obsession goes in the other direction. Trump couldn’t stop tweeting about Kelly for weeks after the first debate in August, and decided to pick up the attack again last week in anticipation of tomorrow’s debate. Why? Trump hasn’t gone on the warpath with other debate moderators from other networks, including the CNBC panel that incurred the wrath of other Republican candidates. In this case, Trump’s competitors seem to have little issue with Kelly or Fox News.
Fox didn’t help their case much over the past 24 hours, though. This is a fight the network (not Kelly) picked. First they put out a sarcastic and unprofessional shot at Trump for his repetitive threats to skip the debate, which provided the catalyst for Trump’s decision last night. That’s not exactly behavior becoming a broadcast partner for the RNC’s official debates, and raises the question about disparate treatment of Fox and NBC by the GOP, a headache Reince Priebus hardly needs at the moment. Then, after Trump announced he was pulling out of the debate, Fox issued this overwrought and nonsensical statement:
Fox Statement on Trump skipping debate pic.twitter.com/DlfwseFQKz
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) January 27, 2016
“Terrorizations”? This is an apparent reference to death threats sent to Kelly after the first debate, for which Fox implies Lewandowski had some responsibility. That’s a pretty serious accusation, and if Fox has any basis for making it, they should publish it and stand behind it. Otherwise, it’s nonsense to blame a campaign for the reaction of a few mentally unstable people. Lewandowski may be acting like a jerk — even that’s a YMMV judgment — but he’s not a terrorist. Excuse me, a terrorizationist.
Wake me when the adults come back into the room, mm-kay?
In that same vein, Ben Carson went on Fox and Friends this morning to tell Trump to man up:
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) January 27, 2016
Ben Carson on Wednesday tweaked Republican presidential rival Donald Trump for skipping this week’s GOP debate over a feud with Fox News and host Megyn Kelly.
“I’ve been asked some hard questions. I like hard questions, it doesn’t bother me at all,” Carson said on “Fox and Friends” when asked he felt he or Trump had been treated unfairly by the network.
Carson suggested the debate allowed candidates to expose any unfairness, saying, “If you get into the presidency, I guarantee you that there’s going to be unfairness, so this is just practice for that.”
Will this make much difference in Iowa? Eh, probably not, especially not among Trump’s committed supporters, for whom everything Trump does is sheer brilliance. (Note: This is not much different among committed Cruz supporters, Carson supporters, Jeb supporters, and so on. Er …maybe not so much on the Jeb supporters, though.) However, Iowa voters who have yet to make up their minds will look to this last debate to help clinch their decision. If Trump’s a no-show, that may push many of those to move to another candidate. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, almost 40% of likely caucus voters had not firmed up on a candidate, and that’s a big chunk of votes to leave on the table at the last opportunity.
Meanwhile, no one in this kerfuffle is covering themselves with glory, with perhaps the exception of Kelly herself, who has maintained a sense of professionalism that has escaped both Trump and Fox News. Perhaps today will be the day that everyone else gets the Super Jumbo Grip on themselves.
Update: Cheri Jacobus, a reporter/analyst and at times Capitol Hill staffer, has been offering up her recollections of working with Lewandowski, as well as the Trump campaign’s attempts to bring her on board. Start here and work your way forward. If Jacobus is recalling this accurately, though, it’s pretty clear that Fox has been enabling Trump and Lewandowski for quite some time, too.