The reignited Donald Trump-Fox News "feud": A cynical show that serves all parties' interests

The two best ratings-getters out there know perfectly well what they're doing

Published August 26, 2015 12:00PM (EDT)

  (AP/Reuters/Fred Prouser/John Locher/Frank Franklin II/Photo montage by Salon)
(AP/Reuters/Fred Prouser/John Locher/Frank Franklin II/Photo montage by Salon)

It's back on: Donald Trump and Fox News are fighting again! This is going to be a rough-and-tumble donnybrook if ever there were. Or, more likely, a win-win in which Donald Trump gets more attention while Fox News and Megyn Kelly get a very classy ratings boost.

That's the only way we can read this latest "feud" between Donald Trump and Roger Ailes, two figures who understand, perhaps better than any other people on the planet, how to draw attention to themselves and boost television ratings. Just look at what I'm writing right now. Goddamnit.

On Tuesday night, "Donald Trump," or whatever his Twitter account even is, wrote and retweeted a bunch of nasty stuff about Fox host Megyn Kelly, who during the first presidential debate very inappropriately quoted some of the very many inappropriate things he's said about women over the years.

This of course would violate the "truce" that Ailes and Trump had made following Trump's last crusade against Kelly, during which he famously hypothesized that Kelly asked him difficult questions because she was on her period. Per CNN's reporting, the truce was struck after Ailes called Trump and delivered this line:

Ailes' office called Trump's office. We "can resolve this now," Ailes said to Trump, "or we can go to war.

No one actually speaks like this. Right? No one said this. But it ginned up yet more interest in the feud, and everyone tuned in to watch Trump return to his usual stints on Fox & Friends and Sean Hannity's program.

Now it's time to do it all over again, more publicly, for even better ratings. Kelly's coworkers at Fox News -- even including all-star Trump bootlicker Sean Hannity -- have taken to Twitter to very politely ask Donald Trump to cut it out.

Mr. Trump, we love you so much, you are so great, will u kiss me, but please stop being mean to Megyn.

Ailes himself issued a statement calling on Donald Trump to apologize to Kelly. Shortly thereafter, Trump issued his own statement not apologizing. (I have emphasized a very funny but unrelated line.)

"I totally disagree with the FOX statement. I do not think Megyn Kelly is a quality journalist. I think her questioning of me, despite all of the polls saying I won the debate, was very unfair. Hopefully in the future I will be proven wrong and she will be able to elevate her standards to a level of professionalism that a network such as FOX deserves. " Trump said.

Trump said that what's more important are his high poll numbers.

"More importantly, I am very pleased to see the latest polls from Public Policy Polling showing me at a strong number one with 35% in New Hampshire, the Monmouth University poll showing me, again at number one, with 30% in South Carolina and the latest national poll from Gravis where I am again the clear front runner with 40%. It was also just announced that I won the prestigious corn kernel poll at the Iowa State Fair by a landslide," he added. "I will be in Iowa tonight with my speech being live on CNN and other networks. My sole focus in running for the Presidency is to Make America Great Again!"

What's going to happen now? Expect media reporters to flesh out any number of mostly made-up stories with flashy fake quotes from "Fox brass" about who said what overdramatic cartoonish thing to whom. Then expect another wave of stories tick-tocking the "incredibly tense" conversations that Trump and Ailes had before reaching another truce, climaxing with an obviously fake crescendoing line that sounds like it was cribbed from a 2000s Russell Crowe movie. ("Then Ailes said to Trump, 'I will hunt you down from coast to coast, and have my vengeance.' To which Trump responded, 'Eat balls, fuckhead.'")

And it will all with Donald Trump making a heavily promoted appearance on The Kelly File, which will get some of the best ratings in Fox News' history.

Not a bad plan.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell

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2016 Elections Cable News Donald Trump Editor's Picks Fox News Media Criticism Megyn Kelly Roger Ailes