As a public feud over the first Republican primary debate threatened to boil over into all-out combat, Fox News Channel CEO Roger Ailes reportedly phoned candidate Donald Trump with an ultimatum: The two men could ‘resolve this now, or we can go to war.’
That’s the version of events reported Thursday by CNN, as the network’s media reporter recounted the events that drove the crescendo of a prime-time skirmish nearly to the point of no return.
The August 6 debate’s first questions were to Trump, 69, including one from Fox anchor Megyn Kelly about the billionaire’s treatment of women, including ‘disparaging comments about women’s looks’ on his Twitter page.
After the debate, Trump told reporters that ‘the questions to me were not nice. I thought Megyn behaved very badly, personally.’
Cue the battle trumpets.
Trump retweeted messages from fans saying that ‘the biggest loser in the debate was @megynkelly’ and calling her a ‘bimbo.’
He added in his own voice that Kelly had ‘really bombed tonight. People are going wild on twitter! Funny to watch.’
Reaction from women’s groups was fast and furious. Trump’s millions of partisans called figuratively for Kelly’s head on a platter, believing she had intentionally tried to deliver a fatal blow to hsi White House aspirations.
And then came Friday. In an appearance with CNN’s Don Lemon, Trump said the debate co-moderator had had ‘blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her – wherever.
Ailes, famously for being fiercely protective of his on-air stars, was somewhere between ‘apoplectic’ and ‘furious,’ according to CNN.
But his network steered clear of reporting on the frenzy that ensued, despite the near-universal nationwide fascination with the comment – and Trump’s denial that Kelly had let her monthly period make her hot-tempered and unreasonable.
The real estate tycoon was bumped from a conservative cattle-call event in Atlanta that Saturday over the ‘blood’ fracas, and a Fox News employee told DailyMail.com at the time that Trump ‘has to be feeling some heat.’
The Donald dropped off Fox’s radar entirely, appearing by telephone on every major Sunday morning political talk show that weekend except ‘Fox News Sunday.’
That show’s host, Chris Wallace, said he was only interested in face-to-face interviews with presdiential candidates.
‘We are not a call-in radio show,’ Wallace said Thursday on the Fox News Radios ‘Kilmeade & Friends’ program.
‘We are a Sunday talk show, and he is a presidential candidate. You do an interview on camera.’
The public, though, was left with the impression that The Donald was shrugging off Fox.
Both sides wanted apologies. Neither would budge. But Trump’s name is box-office gold – his star power helped draw an unprecedented 24 million viewers to the Cleveland debate – and Ailes wanted him back on Fox’s air.
Tensions intensified Monday morning when Trump appeared on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ program and said he still thought Kelly should fall on her sword.
‘The fact is, she asked me a very inappropriate question,’ he said. ‘She should really be apologizing to me, you wanna know the truth,’ he said during a phone-in interview.
‘Others of the – if you wanna call them – candidates came up to me at that intermission and said “Boy, that was unfair what they did to you,” and everyone felt that.’
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