Fox News Channel is the power player in Republican politics. The size of the network's audience coupled with the conservative bent of that audience makes its airwaves the gold standard for GOP candidates running for president. Which is what makes the fact that Donald Trump just won a stand-off with Fox all the more remarkable.
In the wake of last Thursday's Republican debate, Trump made quite clear -- as only he can -- that he thought he had been mistreated by the Fox moderators and, in particular, Megyn Kelly.
Wow, @megynkelly really bombed tonight. People are going wild on twitter! Funny to watch.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2015
Then Trump hit Fox where they live -- ratings. He phoned into a series of Sunday television talk shows except, of course, Fox News Sunday. Chris Wallace, the moderator of "FNS", insisted that Trump's absence was the result of its refusal to allow the real estate mogul to call in by phone. Regardless, the snub fueled speculation that Trump was boycotting Fox, which, clearly caused consternation from the top brass at the network.
On Monday morning, Trump tweeted this out:
Roger Ailes just called. He is a great guy & assures me that “Trump” will be treated fairly on @FoxNews. His word is always good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2015
That's Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News. And, yes, Trump made sure to emphasize that Ailes called him -- not the other way around.
Then there's this reporting from New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, the definitive source for all internal Fox scuttlebutt: "According to a source briefed on the negotiations, Ailes called Trump 'multiple' times yesterday morning 'begging' him to tweet out that they had made peace."
Sherman also reported that Ailes had offered Trump the chance to sit down with Kelly on air but Trump refused; "Ailes offered other shows, and Trump agreed to appear on Fox and Friends and Hannity, two venues that have been loyal boosters of his candidacy," writes Sherman.
Right around the same time Sherman's item posted, Trump tweeted this:
Will be interviewed by @seanhannity tonight for the full hour. Hope you enjoy it and, more importantly, hope you agree!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2015
An hour-long, primetime sitdown with Sean Hannity, who is not among Fox's toughest questioners of Republican candidates (to put it kindly), amounts to Ailes' olive branch to Trump. Hannity is very unlikely to press Trump -- either on his comments about Kelly or his past inconsistencies on subjects like abortion and single-payer. Instead, Hannity will almost certainly echo Trump's castigation of all things political and Washington. Plus, an hour with Hannity is something any of the other Republicans running for president would do almost anything for. How did Trump get it? All he had to do was to go after one of the network's star primetime anchors and rising stars.
Donald Trump has done a lots of things I thought were impossible in the course of this campaign. Staring down Fox News and winning might be his most amazing feat yet.