Media critic

Donald Trump’s criticisms of Megyn Kelly have been weak, sexist, thin-skinned. His decision to back out of Thursday night’s debate is childish and reflects a fear of having to debate his competitors on issues facing the country.

All that said, this dispute is turning into a spectacle with two losers. Fox News unwisely sent out a statement yesterday designed to mock the Republican front-runner for his decision to launch a Twitter poll on whether he should participate in the debate. Here’s what that statement said:

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.

On CNN’s “New Day” this morning, co-host Alisyn Camerota, who formerly worked at Fox News, espied certain fingerprints on that statement: “God, this is such typical Roger Ailes playbook. I worked for him for many years; I recognize this.”

Other pundits recognize it as well — and they’re using it to aver that Trump has some firm footing in bailing on Fox News. Firm footing that he’d never have otherwise.

Example: On SiriusXM’s “Breitbart News Daily,” host Stephen K. Bannon welcomed Eric Trump, son of the candidate/real estate mogul, to tee off on the Fox News release. Bannon set up the younger Trump with these words: “To have a network, a news network, send out a press release that takes our two mortal enemies — the Persians and the Ayatollah and [Vladimir] Putin and the Russians — and makes it, like, some mockery thing … Would Bill Paley do that at CBS back in the old days? Would the heads of NBC do that in the old days? Would ABC News do that in the old days? Has anybody in the history … of media ever sent out a press release to a presidential candidate that’s leading … and they would mock him as commander in chief? Who does that?”

Though it’s a radio interview, you can almost hear Eric Trump nodding in agreement. He responded: “It gives the American people, actually, I think, the first look into politics. It’s something I had never seen before until I got a back-row seat to this whole crazy race. But it shows that there are a couple of people up at the top who try to control politics a lot more, right? I mean, this should be the decision of the American people, this should be the decision of them, not the decision of some network which wants to influence which candidate will ultimately be the head of the GOP. And that’s really what’s happening and it’s really kind of disingenuous. Politics have really been turned on their face, right?”

Right, Eric Trump — especially the politics of Fox News.

For years and years, others have articulated this same critique of Fox News. Commentator Frank Rich, for one, ripped the network as a “right-wing propaganda machine.” Former Obama White House communications director Anita Dunn said on CNN in 2009 that “Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller called Fox News the “cultural home of the Republican Party and a nonstop Obama roast.” Media Matters has much, much more on the topic.

What’s new is that these arguments are now being articulated by Eric Trump, the son of the Republican presidential front-runner. It’s a problem that no statement from Fox News, no matter how clever, can resolve.