Fox News continued to chip away at Donald Trump after he renewed his attacks on host Megyn Kelly. This latest round includes Bill O'Reilly, Fox's highest-rated host, as the network turns on the candidate they built into the current Republican presidential front-runner.
Yesterday, Fox News anchors and hosts joined in a mass attack on Trump after he attacked Kelly as a poor journalist and promoted a tweet calling her a “bimbo.”
Fox figures slammed Trump on-air and on social media as network CEO and chairman Roger Ailes issued a press release demanding that Trump apologize to Kelly.
It is the latest round in an on-again, off-again feud between the candidate and the network, prompted by aggressive questioning at the recent Republican presidential debate.
As the back and forth re-ignited, New York's Gabriel Sherman reported that according to a source, Ailes asked a Trump ally “What's wrong with this guy?” and added, “I don't know what to do.” A source close to Ailes also told Sherman, “Roger says Trump is unelectable. His goal here is to save the country.”
Later in the day at a press conference in Iowa, Trump complained that Fox News “treats me terribly,” adding, “I don't think I get good treatment from Fox.” He rejected Ailes' request for an apology to Kelly, and argued that Kelly “should be apologizing to me.”
On last night's O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly called on Trump to stop attacking Kelly. O'Reilly noted, “The Kelly/Trump story is relevant to me because I'm friends with both of them. They both bring things to America that are worthy and positive. Ms. Megyn has taken the high road by not responding. Donald Trump should cease, and Roger Ailes is a stand-up guy.”
Greta Van Susteren read Ailes' statement on the incident in full during On The Record, as had been done on the network earlier in the day.
This morning, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said Trump should “stick to the issues” and “stop aiming at Fox News.” In an exchange at the end of the show, anchor Gregg Jarrett joked with co-host Brian Kilmeade that he would get angry at him “like Trump.”
Fox's aggressive posture towards Trump is a departure from how the first round of attacks were handled by the network.
According to an earlier report from CNN's Brian Stelter, Fox hosts wanted to publicly come to Kelly's defense but “the network wanted silence.” Stelter wrote that “Ailes did not want to escalate the feud by appearing to fire back. His camp believed that Trump had to be handled delicately, given how disgruntled and unpredictable the candidate was.”
On CNN's New Day, former Fox anchor Alisyn Camerota noted the irony of Fox going after Trump after building him up as a political voice. As Media Matters has documented, Trump is the presidential candidate that has benefitted from the most exposure on Fox.