The battle between Fox News and GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump continued even after the start of tonight’s debate, with Fox News disclosing that Trump offered to take part in the broadcast in exchange for a $5 million donation to his charities.
Fox News and Trump have engaged in a war of words during the past few days over Trump’s demand that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly be removed as a debate moderator. With the Iowa Caucus approaching on Monday, Trump earlier in this week declared that he would not appear in the debate if Kelly was one of the moderators. Trump instead organized a competing rally tonight that was billed as a fundraiser for veterans issues.
“(Fox News chairman) Roger Ailes had three brief conversations with Donald Trump today about possibly appearing at the debate – there were not multiple calls placed by Ailes to Trump,” Fox News said in a statement.
“In the course of those conversations, we acknowledged his concerns about a satirical observation we made in order to quell the attacks on Megyn Kelly, and prevent her from being smeared any further. Furthermore, Trump offered to appear at the debate upon the condition that Fox News contribute $5 million to his charities. We explained that was not possible and we could not engage in a quid pro quo, nor could any money change hands for any reason,” Fox News said. “In the last 48 hours, we’ve kept two issues at the forefront — we would never compromise our journalistic standards and we would always stand by our journalist, Megyn Kelly. We have accomplished those two goals and we are pleased with the outcome. We’re very proud to have her on stage as a debate moderator alongside Bret Baier and Chris Wallace.”
Trump clashed with Kelly last summer in one of the first GOP presidential debates when Trump deemed her questioning of his record on women’s issues to be unfair questioning. He has slammed the anchor repeatedly ever since, even during his appearance Wednesday on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” Trump said on Wednesday that it was Fox News’ sarcastic comment about his withdrawal from the debate that sealed his decision to stay away.
“We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings,” Fox News said in a statement Tuesday that is believed to have been penned by Ailes. Ailes is no stranger to bare-knuckle political brawling, having served as a media advisor to President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush.
After pulling out of the debate, Trump has asserted that Fox News’ advertising rates would plummet without him on stage in Iowa. Behind the scenes, there was clearly outreach between the Fox News and Trump about his participation in tonight’s broadcast, hence the lengthy Fox News statement.