In a discussion with Yahoo’s Katie Couric at New York’s Women in the World Summit, Fox News host Megyn Kelly provided a wistful retrospective on the media’s coverage of Donald Trump. She was asked about the failure of news organizations to ask the Republican candidate “super-challenging questions” in exchange for continued access. “Do you feel as if people’s hands were tied during certainly the beginning of this election cycle because they did not want to kill the goose that was laying the golden?” asked Couric.
“I do,” replied Kelly. “And I think it’s so ironic because if everyone had stood up from the beginning and asked very tough questions, which is what we get paid to do, there wouldn’t have been this issue because we would have all been shoulder to shoulder asking tough questions. … He couldn’t cut off access.” She later said that the principle applied not only to Trump but also to all candidates. “What would have happened if everybody — and you see a lot more of it now — but what would happen if in that moment everyone had gotten tough, really tough, equally on all of them, including him. … You can’t, as a presidential candidate, shut down everybody. You can’t shut down Fox and CNN and CBS and ABC and NBC — you can’t. So there’s strength in numbers on our side, too. And this was a moment, this was an opportunity for solidarity among the press that I think we missed.”
For such a nuts-and-bolts interviewer, Kelly sure has some fanciful ideals about her profession. Surely not every media outlet that sat opposite Trump in the weeks immediately following his June 16 campaign kickoff pressed him with the zeal of a Megyn Kelly — that’s true. Even so, Trump was indeed pressed aggressively on his various rhetorical outrages, including calling Mexicans entering the United States “rapists.” For just one example, the Erik Wemple Blog points readers to the work of NBC News’s Katy Tur, who in early July fired tough question after tough question in the direction of Trump. He responded like a bully and sexist with a weak grasp of the facts. Prescient, in other words.
Tur, though, works in a far flung and pluralistic industry. As it turns out, there are plenty of outlets that, over the course of the campaign, have been willing to extend a more accommodating hand to Trump. For months and months, “Morning Joe” performed this function. When they were called out on their Trump tilt, the hosts pointed to some fluffy Trump interviewing over on CNN. And for Kelly’s tough-against-Trump media solidarity to reach impermeability, she would have required the cooperation of her own colleagues at Fox News. Opinion-side hosts such as Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the crew on “Fox & Friends” have been pumping oxygen into the Trump campaign throughout the primary battles. The newsies at the network have been far tougher, and the Fox News debate team — Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Kelly herself — have been murder on Trump, when he has the courage to show up.
So there you have it — even within Fox News, there’s no single standard of scrutiny of Donald Trump. How on Earth could such an operation be orchestrated across media organizations?