Donald Trump and Fox News are at it again. And given that their needs are both interdependent and conflicting, there’s no reason to think the feud will end soon
Rachel Maddow gave an excellent rundown last night of how Fox News “midwifed” Trump’s candidacy. Before he became a candidate, she noted, “Donald Trump was essentially a potted plant that the Fox News studio crewmembers kept finding new, sunny places for. …Fox News basically gave him a rolling, live platform on which he could become increasingly more of a candidate on their airwaves.”
The relationship changed, of course, after the Republican candidates debate when Trump had a hissy fit over Megyn Kelly’s questions. Though a truce was brokered, a flare up occurred this week when Trump went on another Twitter tirade against Kelly and Fox chief Roger Ailes issued a (somewhat toothless) statement of defiance saying the network refuses to be bullied.
“On the one hand, this does feel sort of like Godzilla vs. Mothra,” Maddow noted. “Two monsters of roughly the same size. How can a fight between them possibly end?”
But, she continued, it’s really more like Frankenstein and his own monster. “Because when Donald Trump wanted to become a real candidate and not a celebrity, when he wanted to start being treated like a candidate, Fox News did that for him. They created this thing which they are now fighting.”
Maddow went on to predict that Fox will ultimately prevail. “My personal sense is that Fox News will endure no matter who the Republican nominee is,” she said, “and there can be no Republican presidential nominee without Fox News championing them, but that’s my personal take.”
But the problem is, Ailes is acting uncharacteristically wimpy. When the feud began, in the aftermath of the debate, Ailes could have forcefully come out and blasted Trump for objecting to questions that Ailes almost surely approved of, if not helped conceive. Instead, he claimed to have had nothing to do with their formulation. Then he was silent in the wake of Trump’s first onslaught against Kelly. Even in his latest statement, Ailes didn’t really demand an apology from Trump, he kinda sorta asked for one, saying, “Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should.”
Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman has some clues about why Ailes seems so spooked. Appearing on MSNBC yesterday, Sherman noted the “daylight” between Fox and Trump:
SHERMAN: Donald Trump supporters are the loyal Fox News audience and Donald Trump has rallied his base of supporters essentially against Fox News and Megyn Kelly, and Roger Ailes can’t have that daylight between the two of them. …Trump is more in sync with the Fox News audience than Roger Ailes is.
But, presumably, not all of Fox’s audience are Trump supporters. For example, 58% of Republicans in this recent CNN/ORC International poll think Republicans have a better chance of winning the presidency in 2016 with a candidate other than Trump. and, presumably, Ailes wants to keep them all happy or at least all watching Fox News. However, Ailes isn’t just interested in giving viewers what they want. He’s a propagandist and therefore wants to shape what they want.
According to Sherman, Ailes is part of that 58% who think Republicans would be better off with someone else. “'Roger says Trump is unelectable. His goal here is to save the country,' a source close to Ailes told me.”
So, on the one hand, the media wing of the GOP, aka Fox News, wants those loyal Trump supporters also to be Fox watchers and, regardless of what Trump says, he’ll want that large GOP audience of Fox loyalists. On the other hand, Ailes can’t turn Fox completely into the Trump Network while, at the same time, Trump has lots of other networks where he can get exposure when he is displeased with Fox. In other words, while Ailes and Trump are competing to control the GOP message, there are plenty of ways their needs are symbiotic.
That’s why my prediction is that Trump and Ailes, who are or were friends, will continue to get along when their interests converge and continue to snipe when they don’t.
Watch Maddow and Sherman below, via Media Matters.
Ellen, did you fail to proof the above sentence or did you really intend to write it that way? “Trump has lots of other networks where he can get exposure.” Huh? What networks? Trump can’t appear on CNN since that network is usually lumped in with MSNBC as “far-left liberal” by the very people who, for so long, have been parroting the FoxNoise propaganda (and obviously, he’s not going to go on MSNBC). And, quite frankly, there’s no other real game in town that approaches FoxNoise, CNN, or MSNBC in terms of audiences—even as minuscule as those audiences really are compared to the major networks’ scripted and “reality” TV shows. (The major networks are pretty bound by restrictions on the kind of “free” airtime they can give candidates. If tRump tries to get a special interview with CBS, NBC or ABC, those networks will be obliged to give the same airtime for ALL the other candidates—unless, of course, tRump BUYS the airtime as a “commercial,” in much the same way that Lyndon LaRouche used to do during the last couple of weeks in Presidential election years to boost his “candidacy.”)
tRump really needs to watch his step. As a “businessman,” he should be aware that sometimes you have to deal with people you really hate but, at the same time, if you treat them with open contempt, they may stop doing business with you—and that’s NEVER good for business. Whatever problems he wants to pick at with Megyn Kelly, he really needs to (“Frozen” warning) “let it go.” If he were doing business with a female CEO of another company and he decided to start name-calling and badmouthing her and making sexist comments, he shouldn’t be surprised if she told him that it’d be a cold day in hell for her company to do business with him. And if he made some sexist comment about the daughter of a CEO he was doing business with (or trying to do business with), he’d probably be lucky to come away with nothing worse than a bloodied nose and a missing
But I really don’t think there really is anyone else that would give tRump the kind of softball treatment nor the audience he so desperately craves if he pisses off FoxNoise. He certainly can’t go to Univision (not without agreeing to do some major ass-kissing and groveling for forgiveness for his racist comments—which would then sink him for good with his supporters).