Who Wins in the Trump vs. Fox War of Words?
War–the ones that used to be waged between countries–is definitive when talking winners and losers. There are no ties, no kissing-your-sister moments like we used to see in the old NHL or currently in soccer.
War is a word being used to describe the current unpleasantries between Donald Trump, Megyn Kelly and Fox News. You all know the story by now: Kelly asks (a legitimate) question around the words the GOP Frontrunner has used in the past regarding individual women he doesn’t like (fat pigs, slobs, disgusting animals, etc.). The whole legitimate part comes from the fact that if Kelly doesn’t ask that question, it surely would be broached by whomever his Democratic opponent (Joe Biden) is down the line (along with appearing in countless war on women ads from outside groups) in the general if he won the nomination. Public record is public record, and the Fox host had every right to bring what Trump said in the past. Fin.
That should have been the end of it, but Trump–as noted here before–suffers from Irish Amnesia, a fictitious ailment that applies to those who forget everything but the grudge. So Trump pushed back publicly on Kelly, relentlessly…bizarrely…and a funny thing happened:
Many people–mostly on the right–apparently agreed with him. His numbers only grew in the polls. Those who stated (including me) that his debate performance would be the beginning of the end of his unlikely rise to the top were proven wrong (again). But then something else happened: Kelly’s numbers–those of the ratings variety–rose as well. She then took a vacation (yes, scheduled, unless she’s basically the only major host on any the three cable news networks not to take time off this summer) and returned this past Monday night. Would the post-debate buzz wearing off more than two weeks later mean her numbers would come back down to earth? Guess again, as Kelly scored her biggest audience of the year Monday night.
So what does all this mean? As also stated in this space earlier this month, there’s enough to go around to make everyone happy: Kelly loses some loyal to Trump, yes. But in the process, people who don’t normally watch cable news or had a aversion to Fox News based on reputation (without actually sampling it) may have tuned in to see what the fuss around the 44-year-old host is all about, liked what they saw and decided to stick around. And Trump–minus an apology or anything resembling regret–continues to get to play the role of victim/anti-establishment warrior…treated unfairly–in his mind–by a cable network he was more loyal to (note: he wasn’t under any kind of contributor contract when doing weekly morning hits) than any other.
The controversy should have been over once Trump and Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes stated the air had been relatively cleared. For her part, Kelly stated her peace on her first program airing after the debate and handled it like a pro (simply defending her right to ask the question in question and stating it was time to move on without getting into the mud with Trump). But then came this past Monday night, Kelly’s first show back, and in an eight-minute span on Twitter, Trump made it feel like sophomore year all over again on Twitter:
I liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2015
Ailes had enough at that point, calling Trump’s attack “unprovoked” and “unacceptable”. Trump again stood his ground, apparently still amazed Kelly won’t apologize, and promised to mock her for the rest of her career. So will the roads taken by Ailes, Trump and Kelly (who seems to know getting roped in will only hurt her credibility) do any damage to the candidate or the network?
The answer is no.
In the end, Fox will only grow its numbers and ratings dominance even more for the next 442 days leading up to Election Night. Know this: We’re only in the second chapter of the most entertaining, drama-filled, rollercoaster of an election season in the history of this country: Will Biden sink Hillary? Has President Obama knee-capped the Clintons by already hinting an endorsement for his VP? Will Trump run away with the nomination or will he finally fall? Will the other 16 candidates from the GOP side ever get anything resembling fair coverage in terms of airtime? Hint: Nope. Will Ailes ban Trump from the network altogether? Another hint: Nope. Will Kelly mostly stay above the fray? Hint: Probably…can’t be easy though.
Reality TV meets cable news meets the most important election of our lifetime. War? What war? In this case, this ain’t soccer. There are no ties. It ain’t baseball, either. Nobody loses. Fox wins. Trump wins. Kelly wins. Hell…CNN and MSNBC win.
All of these networks were built in different ways for the same imperfect storm.
And just think: It’s only 63 weeks until election day.
>> Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV
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