One of the most fascinating sideshows in the 2016 Republican primaries has been the on again, off again battle between Fox News and Donald Trump. Fox, which has been a voice for conservatives for 20 years now, has been hard on the surprise frontrunner. Perhaps not as hard as Trump claims, but there’s no doubt that they started this season in the bag for Jeb Bush. That’s okay as far as it goes, but it bled into their Trump coverage, making the channel sometimes indistinguishable from the rest of the liberal slander you can find everywhere else on the dial.
Things may not have boiled over into real animosity, however, had it not been for Megyn Kelly’s questions at the first GOP debate. After lobbing softballs at the other candidates, Kelly confronted the real estate mogul on his history of demeaning comments about women. Trump cleanly deflected the criticism inherent in the question with his sharp wit (“only Rosie O’Donnell”) but he left the debate with a grudge. In the ensuing days, he launched on a verbal tirade against Kelly and the network, landing in hot water for making what many thought was a reference to her menstrual cycle.
Since that time, Fox and Trump have declared a mutual truce, broken that truce, and made another. Will the peace hold? If it’s up to Kelly, both parties will leave the past in the past.
“Neither of us wanted any sort of a war with Donald Trump,” Kelly said on the Charlie Rose Show, referring to herself and Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. “We didn’t think that benefited the channel, we didn’t think it benefited me, and we don’t think it benefited Donald Trump, and I think Donald Trump would say that now.”
Well, perhaps not. Trump’s campaign has weathered more storms than the Caribbean Islands, and controversies that would have sunk virtually any other candidate have only helped him retain his dominance over the field. Even if he has some personal regrets about the feud with Kelly, he probably doesn’t regret what it did for his poll numbers.
“I want to ask him all the things people want me to ask him, like why did you get so upset?” Kelly said, expressing hope that Trump might appear on her nightly show. “What do you think about how it went in the days after? Any regrets on it? I think we both know the answer to that: No.”
Exactly. But this is bigger than whether Trump does or does not sit down for an interview with Megyn Kelly. It’s time for the Republican Party and Fox News to stop treating Trump like he’s a cancer threatening to destroy democracy. This serves no purpose. The harder they fight him, the more popular he becomes. The further they distance themselves from his brash approach to politics, the harder it will be for them to unite the voters when this election cycle is over.
It doesn’t hurt the Republican Party to include Trump. Next year, we’re going to be facing a real threat to democracy in whichever Democratic candidate makes it through to the general. Whether that’s Hillary, Bernie, or Joe, it makes little difference. We can’t afford another four years of a liberal in the White House. And if the establishment right-wing can’t draw the conservative base to the polls, that’s exactly what we’re going to get.