Trump, Fox Spar Over Kelly's Role In Debate

UPDATED: Trump Will “Definitely” Boycott Fox Debate Due To Kelly's Presence, Network's Press Releases

Donald Trump will “definitely” boycott Fox News' January 28 Republican primary debate due to the “conflict of interest and bias” moderator Megyn Kelly holds against him and the network's response to his criticism. After reportedly speaking with the Republican front-runner, Fox News and its leadership have stood behind Kelly -- a marked contrast to the network's response when Trump complained about Kelly after the August debate.

Trump Calls For Kelly To Be Replaced As Moderator, Floats Threat To Boycott Upcoming Fox Debate

Trump: Kelly “Should Not Be Allowed To Be A Moderator Of The Next Debate” Based On Her “Bias.” In a January 23 tweet, Donald Trump asserted that Megyn Kelly should not be allowed to moderate the January 28 Fox News GOP primary debate because of her “conflict of interest and bias”:

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CNN: Trump Says He May Skip Debate “If He Doesn't Get Fair Treatment From Kelly” But Then He Reverses Course. In a January 25 interview with CNN, Trump told Wolf Blitzer he may “consider skipping” the January 28 debate “if he doesn't get fair treatment from Kelly,” but then he “walked back” that suggestion:

Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he would consider skipping this Thursday's Republican primary debate if he doesn't get fair treatment from Kelly, who he said treats him “very unfairly.”


Trump has been accusing Kelly of unfair treatment ever since he stepped off stage at the first Fox News debate in August.

But he's ratcheted up those attacks in recent days in an apparent attempt to influence the Fox News moderators ahead of Thursday's debate.

“I don't like her. She doesn't treat me fairly. I'm not a big fan of hers at all,” Trump said during Monday's interview. He also claimed that he “might be the best thing that ever happened to her,” because no one had ever heard of her before the August debate.

Trump also suggested he might skip the debate unless he was confident Kelly would treat him fairly, but then walked back those remarks: “That doesn't mean I don't do the debate. I like doing the debates. I've won every single debate according to every poll.” [, 1/25/16]

New York's Gabriel Sherman: Trump's Campaign Manager Says Trump “Could Very Well Boycott Fox Debate. In a January 25 article, New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman wrote that while Trump is “continuing to leave people guessing” about whether he'll attend the debate, Trump's campaign manager said “Trump could very well boycott Fox” because “Megyn Kelly shouldn't be rewarded for her media bias”:

Donald Trump is continuing to leave people guessing about whether he will be on stage at the Fox debate on Thursday, should [Fox CEO] Roger Ailes refuse to yank Megyn Kelly from the moderator panel. “I'm not 100 percent, I'll see,” Trump told CNN earlier today, echoing a threat he first made on Saturday. “If I think I'm going to be treated unfairly I'll do something else. But I don't think she can treat me fairly, actually. I think she's very biased and I don't think she can treat me fairly.”

Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told me tonight that Trump could very well boycott Fox. “We haven't said he'll be there, and we haven't said he won't be there,” he said. [New York magazine, 1/25/16]

Trump: “You Can Probably” Make The Assumption That I Will Participate In Fox News Debate. In a January 26 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Trump slammed Kelly, saying, “I think she's not a professional. I don't think she's a very talented person,” but suggested he is likely to appear in the January 28 Fox News debate, saying “you can probably make that assumption,” according to Politico:

Hours after indicating that he could boycott Thursday's Republican debate on Fox News based on his objections over Megyn Kelly co-moderating the event, Donald Trump signaled Tuesday that it's “probably” safe to assume he will be in attendance.

“Well, I'm making a decision,” the Republican candidate told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in a telephone interview on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday, in which he continued to bash his long-running media adversary. “I think she's not a professional. I don't think she's a very talented person. I don't think she is a good reporter. I think they could do a lot better than that. I love doing the debates. You know, I just do think they should get competent reporters. They shouldn't use somebody like her. She's not very good. She's not very good at what she does, I will tell you that.”

Pressed again on whether he would participate in the Des Moines event on Thursday, Trump responded, “Well you could probably make that assumption, but I'm thinking about it.” [Politico, 1/26/16]

Back in August, Trump Attacked Megyn Kelly And Fox News After Debate, Causing Roger Ailes To Repeatedly Try to Negotiate A Truce

Trump Lashed Out At Fox News, Megyn Kelly After Debate. Following the August 6 Fox News Republican primary debate, in which moderator Kelly asked Trump about his history of making disparaging and sexist comments to and about women, Trump criticized Kelly, writing on Twitter that she was “not very good or professional,” according to The Washington Post. Trump also criticized the Fox moderators' debate questions the following day on Fox & Friends, asserting “that [pledge] question was aimed at me, which I didn't think it was appropriate.” [The Washington Post, 8/7/15]

Trump: Kelly Had “Blood Coming Out Of Her Wherever” During Debate. In an August 7 interview with CNN's Don Lemon, Trump continued to criticize Kelly, saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes ... Blood coming out of her wherever”:

Donald Trump's feud with Megyn Kelly escalated Friday night when he said the Fox News host had “blood coming out of her wherever” at this week's Republican debate, resulting in swift condemnation from conservatives and a major political event pulling its invitation to him.

During Thursday's presidential debate, Kelly pressed Trump about misogynistic, sexist comments he made in the past, such as calling some women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”

Trump slammed Kelly, saying her questions were “ridiculous” and “off-base.”

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump told CNN's Don Lemon on Friday night. “Blood coming out of her wherever.” [CNN, 8/8/15]

Fox News Chief Roger Ailes Called Trump To Address His Concerns After Trump Threatened Boycott Of Fox News. Following Trump's attacks against Kelly immediately after the debate, New York magazine's Sherman reported that Fox was “deluged” with emails that a source said were “virtually 100 percent” against Kelly, and that Trump told Fox host Sean Hannity that “he was never doing Fox again.” In response to these developments, Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes called Trump to “discuss our concerns,” according to a Fox news release, and said the network “will continue to cover this campaign with fairness & balance. We had a blunt but cordial conversation and the air has been cleared.” Despite Ailes also saying he “again expressed [his] confidence in Megyn Kelly” to Trump, Sherman reported that the network's producers had given orders to on-air talent not to bring up Trump's post-debate remark that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever.” [Media Matters, 8/10/15]

Trump Renewed Attack Against Kelly Weeks Later, Resulting In Full Defense From Fox. On August 24, Trump renewed his attacks on Kelly following a vacation she took, writing on Twitter, “I liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!” He added that Kelly “must have had a terrible vacation, she is really off her game,” noting that she had “no clue on immigration” and criticizing her interview with scholar Cornel West. Trump also posted several tweets from fans attacking Kelly, including one that called Kelly's show “a waste of an hour on Fox,” and another that referred to her as “the bimbo.” In response, multiple Fox hosts and contributors defended Kelly on Twitter and Ailes released a statement calling on Trump to apologize and calling his attacks on her “unacceptable” and “disturbing.” [Media Matters, 8/25/15]

Ailes Struck Another Truce With Trump After The Additional Criticism. On August 26, Politico reported that "[a]nother truce seems to have been struck between Fox News chief Roger Ailes and Donald Trump":

Another truce seems to have been struck between Fox News chief Roger Ailes and Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, Trump told radio host Laura Ingraham that he and Ailes spoke that morning, one day after releasing dueling statements about Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

“Roger Ailes is great. He's a special guy and a good friend of mine. We just spoke two minutes ago. I mean, Roger Ailes is a great guy and no, I have no problem,” Trump said.


Trump told Ingraham he watched Kelly's show on Tuesday night and that she was very nice.

“Actually I watched her show last night; she was very nice and I appreciated it,” Trump said, adding that he is not in a “death struggle” with Fox News and that it's “not a big deal.” [Politico, 8/26/15]

Trump Reportedly Had Phone Call With Ailes About Kelly's Role In The Upcoming Debate

Boston Globe's James Pindell: Trump Spoke With Ailes And Said Kelly “Should Recuse Herself From” The Debate. In a January 23 tweet, Boston Globe political reporter James Pindell said Trump told him that he spoke with Ailes over the phone and urged Kelly to “recuse herself” from the upcoming debate:

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Fox Executives Forcefully Defended Kelly Again, After Holding “Emergency Conference Call” To Discuss Trump Strategy

NY's Sherman: Senior Executives “Convened An Emergency Conference Call ... To Discuss Fox's Trump Strategy.” In a January 25 article, New York magazine's Sherman wrote that Ailes' senior executives “convened an emergency conference call on [January 24] to discuss Fox's Trump strategy”:

The timid response -- by Ailes-ian standards -- is more evidence that the Fox chief is struggling to draft a playbook to deal with Trump. According to a Fox source, Ailes's senior executives convened an emergency conference call on Sunday to discuss Fox's Trump strategy. [New York magazine, 1/25/16]

Fox Defends Kelly, Thanks Trump For "Trying To Build The Audience For Thursday's Debate." Fox News responded to Trump's criticism of Kelly by releasing a statement saying she “has no conflict of interest,” according to New York magazine. The network went on to thank Trump for “trying to build up the audience for Thursday's debate”:

In a statement to reporters, Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti said: “Megyn Kelly has no conflict of interest. Donald Trump is just trying to build up the audience for Thursday's debate, for which we thank him.” [New York magazine, 1/24/16]

Fox Says Trump Is Afraid Of Facing Megyn Kelly. In a January 25 statement to reporters, Fox again defended Kelly and issued a more “fiery response” to Trump, saying he “is going to have to learn that he doesn't get to pick the journalists” and “we're very surprised he's willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly,” according to Politico:

Fox News issued a fiery response to Donald Trump on Monday, suggesting the GOP front-runner is afraid of confronting anchor Megyn Kelly at Thursday's debate.


On Monday, the network's statement grew serious.

“Sooner or later Donald Trump, even if he's president, is going to have to learn that he doesn't get to pick the journalists -- we're very surprised he's willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly” a network spokesperson said. [Politico, 1/25/16]

UPDATED: Trump Polls Twitter Followers About Decision To Attend Fox Debate, Fox's Reaction Is “Tongue-In-Cheek”

Trump Polls Twitter Followers On Whether He Should Attend Or Skip Fox Debate. In a January 26 tweet, Donald Trump polled his Twitter followers on whether he should attend Thursday's Fox debate. The same question was posted on the candidate's Instagram and Facebook accounts:

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Fox Reacts To Trump's Poll By Sarcastically Suggesting Trump Would “Replace The Cabinet With His Twitter Followers” If He Became President. Fox News reacted to Trump's polls a few hours later with a “tongue-in-cheek statement,” as reported by CNN Money:

Fox responded on Tuesday afternoon with a tongue-in-cheek statement: “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.” [CNN Money, 1/26/16]

UPDATED: Trump Will “Definitely” Boycott Fox Debate Due To Kelly's Presence, Network's Press Releases

Trump: “Most Likely I Won't Do The Debate” Because “Roger Ailes Is Playing” “Games.” During a January 26 press conference, Donald Trump said that he “probably ... won't be doing the debate” because he “didn't like that [Fox News] sent out press releases,” and further said “I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing”:

DONALD TRUMP: Probably I won't be doing the debate. I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We'll do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors. We're going to do something simultaneously with the debate. But most likely I'm not going to do the debate. I didn't like that they sent out press releases, toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing. What's wrong over there? Something's wrong. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 1/26/16]

New York Times: Trump's Decision To “Skip” The Debate “Is Pretty 'Irrevocable.'” A January 26 New York Times article highlighted Trump's comments that “it is pretty ”irrevocable" that he will skip the Thursday night event," noting that Trump is “continu[ing] to attack Megyn Kelly and the crew at Fox News”:

Fox News Tuesday announced the lineup for its next debate, but Donald J. Trump said it is pretty “irrevocable” that he will skip the Thursday night event just days before the Iowa caucuses.

“Let's see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference here, where he continued to attack Megyn Kelly and the crew at Fox News, with whom he sparred at an earlier debate.

“It's time that somebody plays grownup,” he said.

If he carries out his threat, it would leave the main debate stage without the candidate who leads in national polls and has been a big rating draw for past debates.

Mr. Trump made his remarks after the Fox News debate moderator Bret Baier announced the debate lineup on the program “Special Report.” [New York Times, 1/26/15]

CNN's David Chalian: Trump Campaign Manager Said “Trump Definitely Not Doing Fox Debate,” Scheduling “Alternate Iowa Event.” CNN's political director David Chalian tweeted on January 26 that Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski confirmed that Trump is “definitely not doing Fox debate Thursday”:

[Twitter, accessed 1/26/15]