But now that Trump has returned to full-frontal attacks on Kelly, Ailes can’t ignore him. Although some have speculated that the feud is merely a gambit to build up an eventual Kelly-Trump interview that would surely deliver ratings gold — and given Ailes’s canny programming instincts, the idea has surely been entertained — more than a half-dozen sources on both sides of the divide told me that the war is real, and not in a reality-television sense of the word. “What’s wrong with this guy?” Ailes grumbled to a Trump ally recently, according to a source. “I don’t know what to do.”
Trump’s feelings are just as personal. On August 12, two days after agreeing to the truce, Trump steamed in private while reading a report by CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter that Trump felt took a pro-Fox slant. “We resolve this now or go to war,” the piece quoted Ailes saying. Trump, according to a friend who spoke with him, felt Ailes was spinning in order to damage him. “I know exactly what they were doing,” Trump told the friend, who says it took a lot for Trump to keep his mouth shut that day. “When Ailes was putting out those stories saying he had won, I just kept quiet. Aren’t you proud of me?” Trump told the friend. (A Fox spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
It’s now harder to see an end to the Trump-Fox war soon. As I reported this week, Trump’s poll numbers remain strong and he’s building a robust campaign operation, which is a threat to Ailes’s political project: “Roger says Trump is unelectable. His goal here is to save the country,” a source close to Ailes told me.