Forget about the war in Afghanistan or the war against ISIS. The bloodiest war of modern times is being fought on social media and in the actual media. In one corner is Fox News, the premier cable news network in the United States, reviled by liberals, celebrated by conservatives. In the other corner is Donald Trump, the real estate tycoon, media personality, and presidential candidate admired by some for his take no prisoners rhetoric, despised by others for his crude, ungentlemanly behavior. As the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday, the war broke out when Trump greeted the return of Fox News’ superstar Megyn Kelly from vacation with caustic tweets, calling her a “bimbo” who “has no clue.”
This was too much for Fox News’ CEO Roger Ailes. He dispatched a press release stating that Trump’s full-throated assault on Kelly was uncalled for and merited an apology. Trump responded by stating that no apology would be forthcoming from his quarter. In the meantime, Fox News personalities from across the political spectrum, ranging from Geraldo Rivera to Sean Hannity, sprung to the defense of their coworker, suggesting that Trump has gone too far.
Allahpundit at Hot Air posits two theories. The first is that Trump is crazy.
“It’s pure hubris. He’s soaring in the polls, he’s (sort of) filling football stadiums with devotees, and he’s the hottest ticket on cable news. He could pick up the phone at any time of day or night and instantly get put on the air on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox. Maybe he figures he’s so bulletproof right now that he can take on Roger Ailes, the most powerful man in conservative media, and win. What’s the worst that can happen? If Fox cuts him off, he’ll spend the next six months doing daily call-ins on CNN and MSNBC about what a loser network full of overrated losers Fox is.”
The second explanation is that Trump is crazy like a fox.
“It’s all part of his anti-establishment game. Trump’s core message to Republican voters is that powerful interests, including and especially interests that are ostensibly allied with them on the right like the GOP leadership in Washington, aren’t really looking out for them. On the contrary, those interests routinely sell out the concerns of their base in order to please their wealthy benefactors. Immigration is the ultimate example. A war with Fox will slide easily into that narrative. Apart from a few Trump loyalists like Hannity, he’ll say, Ailes and his network have been bought and sold by the same donor-class losers who are backing Bush and Rubio. They’re an establishment outfit that shouldn’t be patronized by conservatives who want ‘real change’ in Washington. Fox’s leverage against an antagonist like that would normally be to cut him off entirely, but like I say, Trump’s the biggest name in media right now. He doesn’t need Fox to get a TV megaphone. And if Fox takes him on by cutting coverage of Trump way back and unleashing its hosts to excoriate him, it’ll only seem to prove Trump’s point that the network has an anti-populist agenda (with Trump himself being the avatar of populism in this formula). He’ll be frozen out of Fox forever as a guest, in all likelihood, but he’s already lost various media jobs in the course of running for president. What’s one more?”
How the Trump/Fox War plays out is anyone’s guess. Right now, Trump is polling between 20 percent and 35 percent depending on which poll one looks at, with everyone else trailing far behind. The question arises, how many of Trump’s fans will show up at the polls when the time comes? One theory being proposed by the pundits is that it is one thing for people to respond to a pollster in support of Trump when he a billionaire populist letting the establishment have it. It may be quite another thing when it comes down to the question of giving him the nuclear codes. Then voters may turn to someone who is also anti-establishment, but has a more serious mien. Ted Cruz anyone?
In any case, if Fox News decides to try to take down Trump instead of just ignoring him, be prepared to pop the popcorn and let the games begin.
On the other hand, a side theory is being advanced that all of this is a dance leading up to a live interview of Trump by Megyn Kelly when we’ll see if he has the stones to say to her face what he has been saying on Twitter. That would be an interview that will be studied by journalism students until the end of time. The one thing that can be said about Kelly is that she fears no one, least of all Donald Trump.