New York's Gabriel Sherman: Trump Could Boycott Upcoming Fox News Debate Over Megyn Kelly
GOP Frontrunner Revives Feud With Fox Moderator Ahead Of Iowa Debate
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New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman highlighted how Fox News chief Roger Ailes has been "forced ... to make a choice between his audience and [Megyn] Kelly," since GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has threatened to boycott the next Fox News Debate, unless Kelly is dropped as moderator.
Trump has been feuding with Fox host Megyn Kelly since the August 6, 2015 Republican debate, where Kelly, serving as a moderator, questioned Trump about past offensive statements about women. In an interview two days later, Trump attacked Kelly by saying that she had "blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever." He then later attacked Kelly on Twitter, saying "I liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!" and retweeting a tweet calling her a "bimbo." And while Trump is a frequent guest on Fox, Fox News chief Roger Ailes and many Fox hosts came to Kelly's defense after Trump's attacks.
In his January 24 article, Gabriel Sherman highlighted Trump's latest salvo against Kelly, where he tweeted that Megyn Kelly's "conflict of interest and bias" should prevent her from moderating the next debate. With Trump's campaign threatening to "walk away from the debate if Fox won't exclude Kelly," Sherman wrote that while "Ailes's strategy in situations where his stars are attacked is to ... apply overwhelming force," Trump's popularity "has forced Ailes to make a choice between his audience and Kelly":
With just five days until Fox News airs the final GOP debate before the Iowa Caucuses, Donald Trump is reigniting his war with Megyn Kelly. "Based on Megyn Kelly's conflict of interest and bias she should not be allowed to be a moderator of the next debate," Trump tweeted while campaigning in Iowa on Saturday.
Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, indicated that Trump could walk away from the debate if Fox won't exclude Kelly. "Let's see what happens," he told me. "It's fair to say Mr. Trump is a significant ratings driver for these debates. If we aren't on stage for some reason, they wouldn't have the record 24 million viewers and would be back with 1-2 million people."
In a statement to reporters, Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti said: "Megyn Kelly has no conflict of interest. Donald Trump is just trying to build up the audience for Thursday's debate, for which we thank him."
For Fox News chief Roger Ailes, Trump's threat of a debate boycott raises the stakes in a war that Ailes has struggled to develop a playbook for. Historically, Ailes's strategy in situations where his stars are attacked is to follow a version of the Powell Doctrine: Apply overwhelming force. But Trump's popularity with the GOP base - that is, Fox viewers - has forced Ailes to make a choice between his audience and Kelly. In the wake of the first debate, Ailes was said to be rattled by the volume of anti-Kelly emails Fox News received from Trump supporters. Kelly told people she was receiving death threats, and Fox did not have a ready response. Ailes, who is less of a presence at Fox, now has to make another choice, which could result in the GOP front runner walking away.
Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager, told me Trump could stage his own televised town hall on Thursday night and let Fox's rivals air it. "That would be a great idea," he said.