Like many others, I’m not sure the latest Trump vs. FOX fight is quite over. (One obvious way to grease a face-saving deal is for Fox to agree to give a few millionin profits to a veterans’ charity.) But here’s my framework for thinking about it.
1. Fox isn’t a “news network” like other news networks. Never has been. The left is right about this. If the Obama White House calls CBS and says it doesn’t like commentator X, CBS will politely tell the White House to f— off. If a Bush White House (or, one suspects, a Rubio White House) calls Roger Ailes and says it doesn’t like pundit X, pundit X is likely to disappear from Fox.**
2. Fox favors immigration amnesty. Not uniformly, of course. But do you think it was an accident when every Fox primetime anchor, including Hannity, came out for amnesty after the 2012 election? See here for more of this argument. Since Trump is in the process of wrecking the GOP elite’s plans for amnesty, you wouldn’t expect Fox to be friendly to him.
3. In the first GOP debate, back in August, Fox appeared to make an executive decision to take Trump out. The tell wasn’t in Megyn Kelly’s questions, which were in-bounds, but the post-debate Fox spin, featuring bizarre repeated predictions that Trump was of course now finished.
4. Trump then picked a fairly nasty fight with Kelly, with Ailes basically backing down, embarrassing her. She has ample reason for animus against Trump. I leave it to viewers of her show to decide if she has given effect to that animus over the past months. Many kausfiles commenters seem to think she has, but others say no.
5. You ordinarily don’t want a candidate to be able to create a conflict of interest simply by attacking a journalist and then claiming the journalist is hostile. But Trump’s not guilty of “bootstrapping” because Fox started it (see point 3).
6. Whether or not Trump’s right to try to bounce Kelly at this late date–and the choice of debate moderators is often the subject of intense negotiations, at least in 2-person races– the statement Fox put out when he threatened to not show up was so juvenile and mocking that it, in itself, is proof of over-the-line bias on Fox’s part.
7. Trump doesn’t have to show up. But — even if he has a legitimate beef — is that prudent? I don’t know. I suppose it partly depends on what his “internals” say about the state of play in Iowa. In his online Twitter query today (about whether he should join the debate) I voted “yes.”
8. Even if a Trump boycott hurts Trump, it’s also likely to hurt Fox, a network that now has a deadening hold on conservative punditry because it is basically the only avenue of upward advancement. If Trump drives a wedge between Murdoch’s network and the GOP base — more accurately, deepens the division he’s already created — it could attract a competitor to try to steal that base away. Remember when the U.S. team didn’t show up at the Moscow Olympics? It drove the point home to ordinary Russians that yes, we were angry and serious about opposing Soviet expansionism. Likewise, if Trump doesn’t show up and wins the election anyway, in the teeth of Fox’s taunts, it will dramatically make the point that Fox isn’t as essential to non-Democrats as it once was. In the long run, that could be more important than whatever effect the debate confrontation has on the Iowa results.
** — Some commenters note that CBS has become a little incestuous. Maybe not the best example! But I stick with the distinction: Even when Obama White House national security aide Ben Rhodes is talking to his brother, CBS News president David Rhodes, about obstreperous reporter Sharyl Attkisson, I bet the conversation is couched in conventional journalistic terms (e.g., hypothetically, ‘She got it wrong’) and not mutual-cause terms (e.g., hypothetically, ‘She’s not helpful’). More here. …