As Fox News grapples to rein in Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his attacks on anchor Megyn Kelly following the first GOP primary debate, media outlets are noting the irony of Fox's predicament, as the Donald Trump phenomenon is a creation of Fox News itself.
Fox News Tries To Make Amends After Donald Trump Lashes Out At Anchor Megyn Kelly
Trump Directs Vitriol At Fox News And Megyn Kelly After Being Questioned About Sexism In Debate. Donald Trump lashed out at Fox News and anchor Megyn Kelly over her question about the candidate's past treatment of women during the first Republican debate of the 2016 primary race. As The New York Times explained, “Mr. Trump and many of his supporters have unleashed a social media assault against Ms. Kelly and Fox News since she asked him pointed questions about his descriptions of women as pigs, dogs and slobs”:
In the days since the debate, he has taken to Twitter and appeared on numerous news programs to mock her and question her professionalism -- a tactic he often uses against people who find themselves on his bad side.
Mr. Trump showed no signs of backing down on Monday, repeating his criticism of Ms. Kelly's questioning. “She should really be apologizing to me, if you want to know the truth,” Mr. Trump said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.”
The comment that escalated the conflict between them into a roiling political mess -- and resulted in condemnation from many of Mr. Trump's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination -- was his description of her as being so angry that “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Many took that as a reference to her menstruating, an insinuation Mr. Trump has denied.
Mr. Trump spoke with Fox's chairman, Roger Ailes, about the situation on Monday in a conversation that Mr. Ailes characterized as “blunt but cordial.”
“We discussed our concerns, and I again expressed my confidence in Megyn Kelly,” he said, adding, “And the air has been cleared.” [The New York Times, 8/10/15]
Media Outlets Blame Fox News For Creating “The Trump Monster” In The First Place
The Daily Beast: Fox Has “Only Got Themselves To Blame” For Trump. The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky detailed how Fox News “created the Trump monster” by providing Trump with encouragement and a platform for years:
Fox and the Republican Party have created this new reality. When you spend years nodding and winking and yuk-yuking about the President's birth certificate, how can you be surprised when the guy who has repeatedly demanded to see it turns out to be really popular with your base? You promote a politics that attacks women not merely for having abortions but for wanting to use contraception, and then you're shocked when your hard-shell voting base turns out not to be overly offended by remarks like Trump's?
Indeed Roger Ailes recognized all this when he decided to make nice with Trump Monday. In the first instance Ailes did it because Trump has leverage, and the Donald's threat not to go on his air meant a heavy hit in the ratings department. Ailes was also certainly feeling the blowback from his core audience--the kinds of tweets I alluded to above. And beyond all that, somewhere deeper down, Ailes knows that Fox made Trump, politically, and that the two are made for each other.
The Republican Party and Fox permitted and encouraged Trumpian vitriol for years. All that talk over the years about birth certificates and Kenya and terrorist fist-jabs (remember that one?!) and the moocher class and the scary brown people and all the rest of it...all of it created a need for a Trump, and for other Trump-like candidates, to flourish. Now it threatens to overtake them. If they're wondering who created Trumpism, I have someplace they can look. The mirror. [The Daily Beast, 8/11/15]
The Atlantic: Fox Is “Reaping What It Has Sown” With Donald Trump's Popularity Amid Attacks. The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf described how Fox News was “reaping what it has sown” after years of instructing its viewers to mistrust media attacks against Republican politicians and to trust the likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin:
Consider the Fox News debate as Donald Trump fans experienced it. Wouldn't you wager that Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier all believe that Trump's candidacy is a joke and that his supporters are naive and misguided? Didn't their questions seem to imply that Trump is obviously unfit to be president?
Meanwhile, hasn't Fox News spent years conditioning viewers to believe that journalists belong to a condescending class of decadent elites which engages in barely-concealed conspiracies to destroy anyone who tells it like it is to real Americans? For years, Roger Ailes broadcast everything that Glenn Beck wrote on a chalk board! Surveying America for individuals whose insights he would broadcast to the masses, he settled on Sarah Palin as a person whose analysis he would amplify. It is no accident that a chunk of the Fox News audience is now inclined to side with Trump over Kelly. With Trump's rise, the network is reaping what it has sown. [The Atlantic, 8/11/15]
Mother Jones: “You Can Thank Fox News For The Rise Of Donald Trump.” Mother Jones wrote that by “helping Trump maneuver to the front of the GOP pack and putting him in the spotlight Thursday night, Fox may be doing significant damage to the party it has long favored”:
It's no secret that Fox News both boosts the GOP and wields significant influence over the party--the so-called Fox News Effect. It covers the news that Republicans want covered long after the mainstream media have moved on (Benghazi! IRS targeting! Planned Parenthood tapes!). But the network, where many Republican voters get most of their news, is also partly responsible for setting the party's agenda and boosting its major players, including Trump. And by helping Trump maneuver to the front of the GOP pack and putting him in the spotlight Thursday night, Fox may be doing significant damage to the party it has long favored.
“I don't think there's any question that they essentially made Trump, because going back several years now they would invite him on quite often to discuss political issues, and in the process made him a political figure,” says Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan administration official and a critic of the Republican Party's recent ideological move to the right. “Trump is sort of the most obvious example in which Fox is exercising outside influence on the Republican electoral process. I think without Fox, he would not be running, let alone a serious candidate.” [Mother Jones, 8/6/15]
Rolling Stone: Fox News “Finally Tries To Call Off The Smug Monster It Created.” Rolling Stone noted how in July, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus “called Trump to personally beg him to 'tone it down,'” while “Fox News was promoting the hell out of Donald Trump”:
If Donald Trump represents something like the dark heart of the Republican Party, what we saw during the first official Republican Party debate on Thursday night was the machine trying to control itself. For a party that has gutted and isolated its own structure through its own policy victories, the debate offered everyone an example of the last remaining organ of authority flexing itself. Fox News had celebrated the Donald until this point, but last night it decided to show what it is like when its patience is, if not at an end, then at least temporarily, peevishly suspended.
At the same time, however, Fox News was promoting the hell out of Donald Trump, spending June and most of July devoting more coverage to him than any other candidate. Fox Chairman Roger Ailes supposedly thumbed his nose at Rupert Murdoch, had a three-hour private meeting with Trump, demanded that The Five reporter Eric Bolling personally defend Trump at all costs, tasked Fox & Friends hosts with fawning over him the way infants do with things that blink and make noise, and had Fox pollster/analyst Pat Caddell consult with Trump. [Rolling Stone, 8/7/15]
Salon: “It's Hard To Destroy A Monster Of Your Own Creation.” Salon writer and former Media Matters employee Simon Maloy detailed how “Fox helped give Donald Trump political relevance and championed his campaign -- and then tried to take him down”:
For years, Fox News provided Donald Trump a platform to talk about politics to an audience of conservative voters. The network's employees constantly bombarded him with questions and encouragement regarding his presidential ambitions. When he finally did run, Fox promoted and defended his candidacy in the face of near universal criticism. His presence at Fox News' debate helped make it the most-watched primary debate in history. And after all that, when he finally got up on stage, Fox News shivved him.
The point here isn't to defend Trump - again, he's a monstrous lout and if anyone deserves a shivving, it's him. The point is that Fox News is an immensely powerful and capricious political actor with an agenda all its own. Trump climbed to the top of the GOP field with the help of Fox News, and at the most highly publicized moment of his bizarre campaign, when more voters' eyes were on him than at any other point, Fox News tried to destroy him. It remains to be seen whether the effort was successful, but if it does turn out that Fox News' confrontation with Trump is what finally brought him low, let's not forget that the network happily did its part in creating this monster in the first place. [Salon, 8/10/15]
Fox Has Featured Trump More Than Any Other GOP Candidate
Trump Has Received More Airtime On Fox News Than Any Other GOP Candidate By Far. According to a Media Matters report detailing the amount of coverage Fox News gave each of the Republican candidates since the beginning of May, Trump has received more airtime and made more appearances than any other Republican primary candidate. He was given 4 hours and 45 minutes of airtime over 31 appearances on Fox, easily beating out Mike Huckabee, who received 3 hours and 21 minutes of airtime, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who appeared 28 times. [Media Matters, 8/5/15]