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CNN's Dylan Byers outlined how Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's decision to boycott the Fox News sponsored GOP primary debate illustrates a "shift in the political-media landscape," where "ultraconservatives" no longer "worship Fox News."
Trump has been a regular fixture on Fox News since 2011, but has recently become embroiled in a feud with the network, that has culminated in his decision to boycott Fox's January 28 Republican presidential primary debate.
On January 28, CNN's Byers suggested that Trump's feud with the network illustrates a shift in Fox News' relationship with the Republican Party, noting that many conservative viewers don't believe that primetime hosts, including Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly, are conservative enough. Byers wrote that this "rift" between the "ultraconservative" base and Fox News "has enabled Trump to wage war against the very network that has historically been one of the most influential players in the Republican primary contest":
Trump's six-month war with host Megyn Kelly, which turned nuclear when he pledged to skip the Fox News debate that she is co-moderating on Thursday, has exposed a significant shift in the political-media landscape: The growing divide between ultraconservatives and Roger Ailes' Manhattan-based network.
Trump's attacks on the network -- like those he's made on Mexicans, Muslims, Sen. John McCain, and others -- are no random acts of emotion, conservative pundits and campaign strategists told CNN. Instead, they indicate calculated tactical moves designed to stoke support among a conservative base that no longer worships Fox News as it once did.
In 2016, that conservative base is coming to believe that Fox News is more in line with the increasingly despised Republican establishment than with the ultraconservatives who support insurgent candidates like Trump and Ted Cruz.
That rift has enabled Trump to wage war against the very network that has historically been one of the most influential players in the Republican primary contest.
For his part, Trump insists the reason he is boycotting the Fox News debate is Kelly and the last straw -- what he viewed as an insulting press release about him issued by the network.
"I don't like her. She doesn't treat me fairly. I'm not a big fan of hers at all," Trump said earlier this week. The next day, he posted an Instagram video in which he declared: "Megyn Kelly's really biased against me. She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that."
Fox issued a statement saying in part about Trump, "We can't give in to terrorizations of any of our employees."
It's official: Hillary Clinton now faces two looming campaign challengers, Republicans and their allies in the press. But don't take my word for it. The anti-Clinton press campaign is now an open secret in the media, and it marks a whole new chapter in campaign journalism.
Election seasons always usher in debates about press coverage, with the assumption being coverage can affect electoral results. Which candidates are getting the most positive coverage? And which ones are being dogged by journalists?
Journalists traditionally wave off any allegations of unfair treatment for particular candidates and insist the claims are nothing more than sour grapes, or partisan plots to boost the candidate's chances. Instead, scribes claim, they always play campaigns down the middle.
But in a new twist, some members of the Beltway press corps are stepping forward to announce categorically that Hillary Clinton, despite her envious standing, is the obvious target of media derision. And that the press is actively trying to harm her campaign.
"The national media has never been more primed to take down Hillary Clinton," Politico's Dylan Byers observed late last week, as he surveyed the unfolding campaign season. The same press corps, he added, stands poised to "elevate a Republican candidate."
That's a rather astonishing revelation from inside the Beltway media bubble, right? Openly taking down a Democrat, while elevating a Republican? Wow.
The weird part was that campaign journalists didn't seem to object to the description. There was very little pushback regarding Byer's rather shocking claim; it barely caused a ripple. Journalists don't seem ashamed of that fact that Clinton faces a tougher press than her fellow candidates, or think it reflects poorly on the state of political journalism. More and more journalists are simply admitting the truth: The press is out to get Clinton. Period.
How is it the likely Democratic Party nominee for president has become a constant target of press derision and that journalists admit the media's out to get her? Whatever happened to journalism's role of reporting on what happens in a campaign, and not trying to determine the outcome?
And could you imagine the seismic revolt that would unfold if reporters openly targeted Republicans? But don't hold your breath. When was the last time you read an article, or heard a single television discussion, in which Beltway media elites opined about how their media colleagues despise Gov. Scott Walker, are out to get former Gov. Jeb Bush, or want to take down Sen. Marco Rubio?
That kind of talk could kill a journalist's career because it would ignite the right wing's Liberal Media Bias mob. But publicly admitting the press is "prime" to try to disrupt and dismantle the likely Democratic Party's presidential nominee seems to represent perfectly acceptable behavior.
Talk about the Clinton Rules.
Nate Silver has a computer model. Each day he plugs the data from the various national and swing state polls into that model, numbers are crunched, simulations are run, and he posts the results on his New York Times blog indicating who is more likely to win the presidential election: Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. (As of this posting, Silver's analysis has Obama winning in 74.6 percent of scenarios.) And for this, Silver is coming under attack from pundits who insist that their gut feeling tells them the race is a true toss-up.
"Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they're jokes," complained Joe Scarborough on the October 29 Morning Joe.
Complaints like Scarborough's are helped along by publications that have an interest in maintaining the view of a race that is essentially a flip of the coin, and in preserving the importance of their own roles as gatekeepers with access to critical insider information. Politico's Dylan Byers cited Scarborough's criticism along with that of New York Times columnist David Brooks in positing that Silver may be a "one-term celebrity."
"If you tell me you think you can quantify an event that is about to happen that you don't expect, like the 47 percent comment or a debate performance, I think you think you are a wizard. That's not possible," Times columnist David Brooks, a moderate conservative, said on PBS earlier this month. "The pollsters tell us what's happening now. When they start projecting, they're getting into silly land."
It makes sense that pundits like Scarborough and Brooks would have it out for a numbers guy like Silver. Their oeuvre is the intangible. They analyze based on gut feelings and nonspecifics. Their great trick is to transform the utterly unquantifiable into something approaching concrete certainty.