"The Anti-Trump network": Trump's boycott of Fox News debate splinters right-wing media

Breitbart, Joe Scarborough and Ann Coulter join forces in defending Trump against Megyn Kelly and Roger Ailes

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published January 27, 2016 5:48PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/AP/Carolyn Kaster/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/AP/Carolyn Kaster/Photo montage by Salon)

With Donald Trump announcing a planned boycott of Thursday's Fox News debate after months of complaining about the network's coverage of his campaign, an already splintered right-wing media landscape continues to crumble as conservatives are forced to pick between their beloved Megyn Kelly and their party's dominant figurehead.

According to a new report by longtime Fox News observer and New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman, things have gotten so icy between the one time weekly contributor and Fox that "Trump advisers are privately telling people that he will only deal with Rupert Murdoch to resolve the dispute."

Sherman writes that "the network is split between Kelly's allies like Brit Hume and conservative anchors that are furious that Kelly — who graces the cover of Vanity Fair this month — has become the face of the network." According to Sherman, one of Kelly's fellow anchors took her to task for hosting liberal filmmaker Michael Moore as Trump announced his boycott on Tuesday evening. “That would be like Rachel Maddow laughing along with Charles Koch as he trashed Hillary Clinton!" the anchor told Sherman.

MSNBC's resident Republican Joe Scarborough echoed the unnamed Fox anchor's disbelief. "Fox are really twisted up at about how this has gone down and how Megyn Kelly, has somehow, with Michael Moore, taken over the network," Scarborough said on "Morning Joe" Wednesday, applauding Trump's boycott.

"I would rather set myself on fire in front of the Fox News studio than go on a debate stage with that," Scarborugh continued, blasting Kelly's past debate moderation.

Sherman goes on to report that "one producer speculated that Fox could go 'National Review' on Trump and start attacking him," and according to some early responses, Fox seems to be doing just that.

Fox News analyst and outspoken Trump critic Brit Hume immediately lashed out at Trump's temper tantrum against the network:

On "Fox & Friends" Wednesday morning, co-host Brian Kilmeade pleaded with the Republican National Committee (RNC) to broker a peace deal to bring Trump back to the Fox debate stage:

This thing could still be saved. Since -- there's a relationship with everybody. You could get somebody to step in or, get this, the RNC could actually do their job and make sure the people of Iowa get a full debate stage and jump in on both sides and get Donald Trump on that stage. It could still be done.

But others in conservative media are not so quick to seek a resolution, instead applauding Trump's diss of the media giant. Breitbart has devoted the majority of its coverage Wednesday morning to the feud, with a heavy tilt in favor of the Donald.

"In asking the question of 'what’s wrong over there?' Trump has shined a spotlight on one of Washington’s best kept secrets," Breitbart's Julia Hahn wrote. "[N]amely, Fox’s role via its founder Rupert Murdoch in pushing an open borders agenda":

Well-concealed from virtually all reporting on Fox’s treatment of Trump is the fact that Murdoch is the co-chair of what is arguably one of the most powerful immigration lobbying firms in country, the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE).


While Megyn Kelly made headlines with her heated questioning of Donald Trump, not one of the Fox News anchors asked [Marco] Rubio in the first Fox News debate about his signature piece of legislation, which Murdoch’s immigration lobbying firm had endorsed. Instead, they lobbed Rubio a series of softballs, such as asking Rubio if he could put God and veterans in the same sentence.

"The Trump campaign is a direct threat to Murdoch’s efforts to open America’s borders," Hahn concluded.

"Fox News Worse than Liberal Media to Donald Trump," another Breitbart headline read:

Last week, moderator Megan Kelly convened a special panel of anti-Trump writers from National Review to mark the launch of their attack on Trump. This week, Fox News prepared for the debate by inviting a Muslim activist who has criticized Trump to be one of three YouTube personalities to question the candidates. And on Tuesday, as Trump considered whether to participate in the debate, Fox issued a petulant, snarky press statement mocking him.


No candidate should agree to participate under those conditions.


Fox News’ behavior towards Trump is the kind of bias viewers have turned to Fox to avoid. We would not tolerate it from NBC or CNN–and we should not tolerate it when Fox News sinks to–and below–their level.

Other right-wing media personalities took to Twitter to defend Trump's boycott:

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By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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