I guess old biases die hard because frankly there is no other explanation for most of the political commentary that I read post-Fox News debate. I had thought that after many months of watching how Donald Trump operates and what makes him popular, political analysts would be able to offer more insightful commentary than “he is scared, so he did not want to debate” or “voters will hate the fact that he is not debating!” Skipping a debate because you do not like the moderator most likely works against your favor in the general election, but in the Republican primary that’s not necessarily true and in Donald Trump’s case it might actually help him win votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Most of the aforementioned political analysts still don’t seem to understand his popularity and even Fox News’ reaction, which was most likely the result of many months of pent-up frustration with Mr. Trump, only serves further his cause.
I understand that Donald Trump can get under a lot of peoples’ skins and that Fox News eventually got fed-up with his on-going commentary about Megyn Kelly, but it should have handled his decision to not participate much better. The official Fox News statement after he announced that he was not participating due to Ms. Kelly being a moderator came across as childish and unprofessional and said:
“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,”
Worse yet, his subsequent appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor showed Fox has no qualms airing his message. Fox News could have taken a principled stand and said we refuse to bring on somebody who makes personal remarks about our hosts, but it chose not to.
Obviously, Fox News, just like all media companies, exists to make money and Donald Trump brings high ratings which translate into more money for Fox, so I can understand the rationale for not wanting to permanently alienate his followers or him. However, the proper statement then would have been something along the lines of “although we respect Donald Trump’s decision to not participate in the crucial upcoming debate, we stand one hundred percent behind Megyn Kelly and the fantastic job she does for us.” That would have demonstrated that Fox News had Ms. Kelly’s back and avoided a nasty public spat with Mr. Trump. Instead we were treated to a public declaration that sounded like something that would pop up in your Facebook newsfeed from a recently heartbroken middle schooler.
Fox News did itself no favors with that statement as it should bear in mind that many of its viewers are among Donald Trump’s biggest fans and that if it thinks getting in a public feud with Trump will slow his momentum headed into primary season it is wrong. If anything, this reinforces his claim to be a political outsider as he is seen as willing to take on another part of the perceived political establishment, Fox News. Donald Trump has run a primary campaign predicated on provocative comments and seeking fights with establishment figures such as Jeb Bush. This has been reaffirmed by his latest tussle with Fox, which will most likely endear him even more to anti-establishment Republican voters in the upcoming Iowa Caucuses.
Chris Linnan is currently a Fulbright Fellow in Indonesia, who has a life-long basketball and politics addiction. If you want to receive an alert every time CLT publishes an article please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Mailing List.