This story has been updated with a (full-throated) statement from Fox News's Roger Ailes
Despite his disdain for Fox News's Megyn Kelly, Trump couldn't help but watch her hit show, "The Kelly File," on Monday night. This, by the way, was Kelly's first day back from a vacation she went on shortly after their debate flap.
And the Republican presidential front-runner apparently hasn't cooled off from his one-sided battle with Kelly during the Aug. 6 debate, where Kelly asked him questions about his past misogynistic comments about women.
Nearly a month later, here's what Trump had to say about Enemy No. 1:
As Trump is wont to do, he then retweeted fellow 'Kelly File' watchers who purported to agree with him. Most of them were pretty base -- including one commenter who called her a "bimbo." The comments were exactly the kind of material Trump has been criticized for.
(It's also not the first time Trump has retweeted supporters calling Kelly a bimbo, FYI. He did the same right after the debate.)
With Trump's tweetstorm done, a few minutes later he retweeted this reassurance from a supporter.
A psychologist might call that tweet a Freudian slip. Trump is the one taking cheap shots at his supposed enemies, apparently unbowed by accusations that he's a misogynist or that he stop biting the hand that feeds him (Fox News).
That's because Trump's MO is to double down on what he says, whether that's hating the haters or lodging conspiracy theories about "rapist" illegal immigrants. He's lost business deals and TV shows in the aftermath of such comments, but refusing to apologize for them has been working for Trump politically. He's leading many Republican polls in large part because voters like that he'll say anything -- and not apologize for it.
But Trump's attacks on Kelly seem slightly more mean-spirited than his previous altercations. He appears to be zeroing in on Kelly in part because she hasn't appeared sufficiently remorseful (in Trump's eyes) for her tough (and fair) questioning of him during the debate.
By Tuesday afternoon, Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes said that Trump had gone too far. In a statement, he said Trump's recent attack on Kelly "is as unacceptable as it is disturbing," calling it "bullying."
Here's the full statement:
Donald Trump's surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at FOX News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise. I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump’s verbal assaults. Her questioning of Mr. Trump at the debate was tough but fair, and I fully support her as she continues to ask the probing and challenging questions that all presidential candidates may find difficult to answer. Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should. We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone and we’re certainly not going to start now. All of our journalists will continue to report in the fair and balanced way that has made FOX News Channel the number one news network in the industry.”
Ailes is standing behind Kelly for a good reason. As The Fix boss has pointed out, Kelly hosts one of the most-watched news shows on cable TV. She's likable and has real influence among conservatives. In attacking Kelly, Trump is attacking the face of Fox News and proving his critics right.
But here's the thing: Trump doesn't care. Trump bullying Kelly on Twitter is classic Trump. Even if it damages his business and/or political career, Donald Trump can't stop being Donald Trump. And, weirdly, it's working.