Rational politicians have a patented approach to making ridiculous claims about media wrongdoing. “This election was entirely driven by national media coverage, in many ways,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a conference call after suspending his presidential campaign. “When the media narrative goes negative on you, and all the news is bad, it kind of knocks us off.” And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said the following to Fox News about rival Donald Trump: “I suspect Donald will continue running and hiding and basking in the protection from the network media that is trying to do everything they can to make him the nominee, because they know he’s the one candidate on the face of the planet that Hillary Clinton can beat in the general election.”
There’s got to be an email chain among network TV executives laying out this precise conspiracy.
Well done, senators: Your baseless rips against the press are sufficiently broad as to defy conclusive debunkment.
As he is in most pursuits, Trump isn’t nearly as careful when it comes to the art of distraction and deflection via media complaints. Back on Aug. 6, Fox News’s Megyn Kelly stung the Republican candidate with a tough question about the nasty things he has called women over the years. He struggled to answer — one of the few times in campaign 2016 that Trump has looked woozy and overmatched.
Ever since, Trump has used Twitter as a pipeline for score-settling. Here are some examples from last week alone:
A Fox News spokesperson could take just so much. Such a spokesperson issued this statement on Friday: “Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her is beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate who wants to occupy the highest office in the land. Megyn is an exemplary journalist and one of the leading anchors in America — we’re extremely proud of her phenomenal work and continue to fully support her throughout every day of Trump’s endless barrage of crude and sexist verbal assaults. As the mother of three young children, with a successful law career and the second highest rated show in cable news, it’s especially deplorable for her to be repeatedly abused just for doing her job.”
Though Trump whines and carps and cries foul about various people in the media and their “disgusting” ways, the Fox News spokesperson is right: From last August into the fall, through January’s tweet-a-thon over Kelly and the Fox News debate prior to the Iowa caucuses, Trump has exhibited a creepy fixation with Kelly.
But hey, at least — unlike Cruz’s and Rubio’s commentary — it’s narrow enough to check. What specific gripes does Trump have with respect to Kelly’s work? If she’s biased or otherwise unqualified, what are the examples? Determined to discover just what’s driving this Trump obsession, the Erik Wemple Blog asked Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks on Sunday: “I have seen the tweets, but what are the specific incidents, the specific instances of alleged mis-reporting committed by Kelly on the Fox News airwaves? Do you folks have list on [sic] instances that prove any bias or issue that she has against Mr. Trump?” Hicks replied that she would have a response by mid-morning Monday.
And she did. “She consistently has me as a major part of the show and consistently does hit pieces. She is a third rate talent and if she stopped talking about me her ratings would go way down. – Mr. Trump,” responded Hicks.
Bolding added to entire statement to highlight the reality that this ENTIRE statement could apply to JUST ABOUT ANY CABLE NEWS PROGRAM IN THE UNITED STATES (Except for “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Morning Joe,” of course).
Prepared for the possibility that Trump would fail once again to provide examples backing up his contentions, we checked in with a pair of Trump loyalists. Jeffrey Lord is CNN’s designated voice from Trumpland, a guy who manages to defend the candidate’s policies better than the candidate himself. “I just know that he is not pleased with her,” said Lord in a brief chat Sunday night. “He said to me more or less what he said in public, so I don’t have anything new to add to that.” When asked about Fox News’s claim that Trump has an unhealthy obsession with Kelly, Lord responded, “I think it’s safe to say he feels it’s the reverse.” For the record, journalists are allowed to give extensive coverage to candidates for president of the United States.
David Wohl is a Trump supporter and California attorney who has spoken up for the candidate on “The Kelly File.” Asked whether he believes Kelly has mistreated Trump, Wohl responds via email, “I’m going to pass on participating in the story.”
Ask any media reporter around: When a candidate starts publicly bashing a given anchor, there’s an extensive paper trail underneath it all. Email complaints, conference calls, official correspondence — a file documenting a campaign’s dismay with what it views as unfair stories. In the case of Trump v. Kelly? “Since the August debate, not one person associated with the Trump campaign has ever reached out to me, Megyn or the staff of The Kelly File to complain about anything that has aired on the show,” notes Tom Lowell, executive producer of “The Kelly File” in a statement to the Erik Wemple Blog.
So, just what kindled this Trump Twitter tear of last week? Could it have been the Monday night fact-check when Kelly stood by her reporting at the previous week’s debate that Trump University’s last rating from the Better Business Bureau was a D-minus? Was it on Tuesday night when, after Trump won Florida, Kelly said, “Also, a remarkable night for Donald Trump. He was ahead in the Florida polling all the way since August. You look at that [Real Clear Politics]…every single poll said Trump Trump Trump Trump since August, but still: This was Rubio’s home state and he’s the beloved hometown son, especially down in the Miami region and yet Trump had it in the bag and he won easily tonight”?
Was it the Wednesday night interview with Cruz, where Kelly pressed him: “You did not manage to win outright any state. Missouri is not official yet, but it looks like that is going to go for Trump”? Was it the Thursday night segment when a guest said that the Republican Party “overwhelmingly” supports Trump? Or was it a Thursday night segment when Wohl said, “The problem is, Donald Trump is where he is because of a rage against the machine. And if somehow the GOP managed to pull the rug from out under him and pull the rug out from under the voters who put him where he is right now, the revolt against the GOP would be so extraordinary, we would never have seen anything like it”?
Or was it something else? Do tell, Mr. Trump.