Even before the GOP presidential debate from earlier this month, claims were beginning to float across the Internet that media mogul Rupert Murdoch was determined to use his cable news branch, Fox News, to derail Donald Trump’s candidacy. The theory seemed to stem from tweets that Murdoch posted which harshly criticized Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
It wasn’t until debate moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace posed several tough, uncomfortable questions to Trump that night, however, that the accusations reached a level of near hysteria.
“Fox News’ War on Trump” was the headline that repeatedly showed up in Twitter feeds, and the popular sentiment among Trump supporters was that Megyn Kelly should have been ‘ashamed’ of how she treated The Donald.
Though all three moderators took some heat for probing Trump (as they did with other candidates), the degree of scorn directed at Kelly stood out. Kelly’s crime, in her critics’ eyes, was that she listed off some scathing comments from Trump (that he had directed at specific women in the past) as a precursor to asking him how he planned to combat the War on Women narrative that would most certainly be used against him if he won the Republican nomination.
Trump fans (and even some non-Trump fans) deemed the query too personal and too combative. Trump, himself, certainly agreed. He complained incessantly of his treatment by Kelly on Twitter and on other television networks, even going as far as suggesting on CNN that Kelly was on her period at the time. He seemed to feel as if he had been betrayed by the network, and said that Fox News should have been nicer to him, considering that his appearance at the debate popped a huge ratings number for them.
While much of the mainstream media was pleasantly surprised with the sternness of the Fox News moderators, many on the right began pointing fingers at Rupert Murdoch as being the puppet-master behind what they viewed as a dirty assault on Trump. Trump added fuel to the fire by suggesting that the network had indeed declared war on him.
Though Trump has since toned down his anti-FNC rhetoric, many of his supporters are still holding a grudge, suggesting that Kelly is an unprincipled instrument, used to carry out Rupert Murdoch’s bidding. It’s as if they can’t fathom someone being critical of Trump without a top-level conspiracy involved. They have similar words for regular Trump critics, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Stephen Hayes, and Jonah Goldberg. To them, these people are proof that the network is in the tank for the GOP establishment candidates, and is trying to sink Trump.
My question to those people is: What network have you been watching?
Whenever I turn on one of FNC’s highest-rated shows, The Five, Eric Bolling is lavishing so much praise on Trump that I half suspect he’s auditioning for a Press Secretary role in the Trump cabinet. Bolling’s transformation from a man who (not so long ago) enthusiastically branded Republican politicians as RINOs if they didn’t demonstrate impeccable conservative credentials, to a glorified cheerleader for Trump, has been a sight to behold.
When Jesse Watters guest-hosts on The Five, he’s the same way. Between him and Bolling, I’m convinced they’ve explained what Trump “really means” on just about every issue the billionaire has ever made a confusing remark on.
Bill O’Reilly, host of the network’s top-rated show, has given Trump the benefit of the doubt on practically every controversial sentence that has left his mouth during the campaign, including the mocking of American POWs for being captured. O’Reilly usually condemns wide-eyed hyperbole, but when it comes from Trump, he seems strangely amused by it. He even finds ways to lend it “greater good” credence, which O’Reilly is not typically known for.
Sean Hannity’s marathon interviews with Mr. Trump have been so fawning, I keep thinking a wide camera-shot is going to reveal the image of Hannity actually asking his questions from a seated position on Trump’s lap. It’s truly ridiculous.
A good chunk of Fox News’ evening analysis of Trump’s presidential run has been breathtakingly favorable and defensive of the candidate. It likely comes from the personal relationships many of these hosts have with Trump, whether it be through friendship, past business dealings, or charitable partnerships. To me, that’s Fox News’ real Trump-bias, not substantive criticisms and aggressive questioning from those with whom Trump doesn’t have close relationships.
It seems to me that people concerned with media-bias should have a problem with that, but few seem to.
The truth is that Donald Trump has been a given an extraordinary amount of air-time on Fox News to promote his candidacy, and most appearances have received little critical push-back. If that’s an example of a network ‘at war’ with a candidate, it must be the friendliest war in history.