Conservative media are embroiled in a blame game over the rise of Donald Trump as a legitimate contender to be the 2016 Republican nominee, and while many on the right promoted his candidacy, Trump's greatest ally has been Fox News itself.
After Erick Erickson disinvited Donald Trump to his annual RedState Gathering over Trump's sexist attacks on Fox News anchor and debate moderator Megyn Kelly,The Wall Street Journal editorial board called out Erickson for helping legitimize Trump's candidacy in the first place. Erickson “trumpeted the businessman as a political tonic,” the Journal wrote, noting how the conservative blogger is part of “a strain on the right that has put Trumpian bluster above political reality” and “helped to create Trumpism.” And yet it's these conservative media pundits “who indulged him [that] now claim to be embarrassed.”
Right-wing bloggers like Erickson have definitely played a role in hyping Trump -- just refer back to Erickson's blog titled, “Yes, I Would Vote for Donald Trump For President” -- but Trump's rise has been sanctioned by a much bigger ally: Fox News.
Fox, a corporate cousin to The Wall Street Journal, has played perhaps the largest role in the promotion of Trump as a legitimate candidate, a fact that is suspiciously missing from the Journal's editorial (despite the fact that Erickson is a contributor on the network). Within the past three months, Trump has far exceeded any other GOP candidate in regards to airtime on Fox News, enjoying 4 hours and 45 minutes on the national platform over the course of 31 appearances.
Until he turned on one of their own, Fox hosts have been quick to praise Trump and defend him from controversy in the past. Fox's entire primetime line-up rallied to defend Trump and his anti-immigrant comments after NBC severed business ties with the presidential hopeful for unapologetically referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and criminals. The network then led the charge crediting Trump for igniting a national debate on immigration.
Eric Bolling has repeatedly gone to bat for Trump, praising him for “making the rest of the [GOP] field better,” while Sean Hannity championed Trump as the “direct result of a weak and timid ... Republican party.” Bill O'Reilly gave Trump a platform to continue calling Latin American immigrants rapists and criminals and justified Trump's vitriol as simply an attempt to inartfully “highlight a problem.” Others like Gretchen Carlson lashed out at the RNC following reports chairman Reince Priebus had scolded Trump about his inflammatory rhetoric.
There was also the cycle of back-patting that occurred between Fox's morning show Fox & Friends and Trump, where the program and the candidate repeatedly traded compliments on the network and at campaign events.
Fox hosts and contributors have gone so far to instruct other Republican candidates to be more like Trump. Fox contributor Laura Ingraham lauded Trump for teaching other candidates “how to build a brand,” while network judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano urged candidates to “take a lesson from the Donald” after exclaiming he's “thrilled” Trump is in the race. Andrea Tantaros once instructed GOP presidential candidates to “follow Donald Trump's lead.”
Fox News is now seemingly following Erickson in backing away from Trump, since the bombastic candidate they helped build is turning his vitriol on Megyn Kelly, one of their own. But if outlets like the Journal are calling out those conservative media outlets culpable for his rise in the first place, Fox News should be first on the list.