New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman highlighted the “confusion” at Fox News about the network's role in the “altered media ecosystem going forward,” in particular over the coverage of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
Trump has been a regular fixture on Fox News since 2011, which paved the way for his presidential run. The relationship between Trump and Fox became tumultuous following Fox's first GOP primary debate in August 2015, during which moderator Megyn Kelly questioned Trump about his history of sexism. Yet, Fox continued to give Trump more than double the airtime of any other candidate. Trump ultimately skipped Fox's second primary debate in January after the network released a mocking statement in response to his demand that Kelly be removed as a moderator. Fox chairman Roger Ailes and network personalities have since struggled with their coverage of Trump.
A February 9 article from New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman highlighted the internal “confusion about what role” Fox News “should play in this altered media ecosystem going forward.” Sherman argued, “Historically, in moments like this the strategy would be clear: Punish the person who publicly crosses Fox.” But as Sherman pointed out, “network boss Ailes has tried that” and Trump has “demonstrated that disregarding Fox News doesn't spell political ruin for a Republican.” Sherman also highlighted how the Trump-Kelly spar has now forced Ailes to “broker peace between Fox's biggest stars, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly”:
With his decisive win in New Hampshire, Donald Trump dashed the GOP Establishment's hope that skipping last month's Fox News debate would sink his campaign. By claiming more than a third of the New Hampshire vote, Trump not only exceeded expectations and more than doubled the vote tally of any of his rivals -- but also demonstrated that disregarding Fox News doesn't spell political ruin for a Republican. The grip that Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and Co. have held on the GOP for nearly a generation got a little looser Tuesday night.
Inside Fox there is confusion about what role the network should play in this altered media ecosystem going forward. According to three insiders I spoke to, the channel's hosts and producers are split over how to cover Trump. Historically, in moments like this the strategy would be clear: Punish the person who publicly crosses Fox. But network boss Ailes has tried that, and Trump not only survived the PR assaults, including one last month, but he seems to have emerged stronger than ever. The situation is even more dire because Marco Rubio, a favorite of many high-profile voices at the network, fared badly in the New Hampshire primary, only a few days after political analysts were floating the possibility that he might even beat Trump. Tuesday night, Fox's pundit class had to accept that his robotic performance during ABC's debate may have destroyed his candidacy. Charles Krauthammer even compared it to Ed Muskie's 1972 implosion.
In fact, Ailes's bigger problem this week is not Trump. It's figuring out how to broker peace between Fox's biggest stars, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly. According to sources, the prime-time hosts are at war, in part over Kelly's Trump-fueled stardom. O'Reilly is said to be outraged that Kelly went on Stephen Colbert's post-Super Bowl show and seemed to criticize his program because it's taped at 5 p.m. and airs at 8 p.m." If you're not live at night -- because the show before me and the show after me are taped -- you lose a lot," she told Colbert, the comedian famous for playing a buffoonish version of O'Reilly for years. O'Reilly has also told people he's furious that Kelly hasn't shown him respect for helping make her Fox's brightest light. Things got so bad that back in September Kelly switched talent agents -- she'd been represented by longtime O'Reilly agent Carole Cooper but left for CAA. “They're at each other's throats big time,” one Fox insider said. “I mean, like big time. Roger doesn't know what the hell to do.” It's possibly a sign that Murdoch wants to keep Kelly in the fold that last week his book publisher HarperCollins signed her to a reported $10 million book deal.