The network’s chief executive is taking umbrage with a new volley of insults hurled by the Republican presidential candidate at its star anchor, Megyn Kelly, after the two sides had agreed to maintain a respectful relationship.
Kelly returned to the air last night after taking a scheduled summer vacation, drawing her largest audience of the calendar year (3.096 million), according to Nielsen estimates. Trump used the occasion to critique her performance.
Fox News is not letting it stand. “Donald Trump’s surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise,” said Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive of Fox News, in a statement released Tuesday. “I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump’s verbal assaults. Her questioning of Mr. Trump at the debate was tough but fair, and I fully support her as she continues to ask the probing and challenging questions that all presidential candidates may find difficult to answer. Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should. We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone and we’re certainly not going to start now. All of our journalists will continue to report in the fair and balanced way that has made Fox News Channel the number one news network in the industry.”
The two sides had been at odds in the wake of Fox News’ broadcast of an Aug. 6 debate among Republican candidates for U.S. president. During the debate, Kelly asked Trump if some of the remarks he has made about women in the past might dampen his appeal. Afterward, Trump made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the line of questioning, proceeding to make some remarks about Kelly that many found offensive.
But Ailes and Trump came to a truce, and Kelly went on a vacation and the matter seemed largely resolved. Trump’s remarks today suggest that is no longer the case.
The battle leaves thorns in both sides’ paths. As the leading Republican candidate, Trump no doubt values the Fox News audience, which tends to embrace Republican tenets. For Fox News, access to and coverage of Trump is something its viewers likely desire.
The war of words takes place after Rupert Murdoch, who oversees 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, took to Twitter Monday to suggest Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and another billionaire, should enter the race to be the nation’s commander in chief.
Other prominent Fox News personalities came to Kelly’s defense Tuesday. On this morning’s broadcast of “Fox & Friends,” co-anchor Brian Kilmeade called Trump’s tweets “out of bounds,” noting, “You cannot, should not be going after her.” Sean Hannity sent out a tweet suggesting Trump focus on big issues and Hillary Clinton:
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Trump called the questions Kelly asked of him at the debate “very unfair” and said, “I do not think Megyn Kelly is a quality journalist.”
Kelly, for her part, vowed in a broadcast Aug. 10 that she would not respond to Trump’s attacks and would “continue doing my job without fear or favor.”