“I liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!” tweeted The Donald. If that wasn't enough, he also retweeted an earlier message that referred to the Fox News star as “a bimbo.”
Obviously the first reality TV star presidential candidate feels no need to keep the peace pipe burning with Fox News chief Roger Ailes. And speculation in this column and elsewhere that Ailes either needed or wanted a truce with Trump, who has been so good for Fox News ratings, seems unfounded, as well. Case in point: So incensed was Ailes over Trump's latest anti-Kelly tirade that he issued a statement demanding The Donald apologize for the “unprovoked” attack.
Ailes knows that Trump on the rampage, even if he's spewing venom at Kelly, arguably Fox News’ biggest star, is good for the bottom line. There's a strong argument to be made that Ailes wanted to push Trump's buttons all along and knew it would boost ratings and Kelly's reputation beyond Fox News loyalists. On her return from holiday Aug. 25, Kelly drew her highest ratings for a regularly scheduled show.
I've reported on Ailes for more than two decades. He is a capital “P” producer who was looking for maximum impact from the first GOP debate. Certainly he knew exactly the kind of tough questions Kelly was going to ask Trump the night of the debate, if he didn't write and edit them himself. Ailes also knew he was doing Kelly a favor in pitting her against The Donald. As her fellow Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said when asked about The Donald/Kelly dust-up on "Late Night with Seth Meyers”: “Don't worry about Megyn, she's just fine.”
Another clue to the whole Trump/Fox News dynamic emerged when Ailes' boss Rupert Murdoch offered the following suggestion via Twitter: “With Trump becoming very serious candidate, it's time for next billionaire candidate, Michael Bloomberg to step in the ring.” The next day, Trump opened fire at Megyn Kelly again. Coincidence or something more?
One could argue that whether or not the News Corp. chairman had sent a valentine tweet Bloomberg's way, Trump being Trump would still have turned his bully-boy sights on Kelly when she returned from her post-debate vacation. The Donald being The Donald, anybody else becoming Topic A means he must react.
When other White House rivals are making news across platforms -- whether it's Hillary Clinton confronting Black Lives Matter activists and racking up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, or Republican hopeful Ted Cruz getting schooled before CBS News candidates on LGBT rights by actor/activist Ellen Page -- Trump is gong to do something to put himself back center on screens big and small, burnishing his brand of speaking political incorrectness to power.
I believe Murdoch and Ailes are working in concert to get maximum mileage out of The Donald and deliberately goad him on. I don't believe either man wants to see a Trump White House. Ailes has a long, friendly history with the Bush family. Fox News has employed several of the GOP aspirants, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (like Ailes, a working-class son of the Buckeye State). Aside from his “I like Mike” tweet, Murdoch has publicly made clear his distaste for Trump's loose-cannon brand of politics.
Still, Murdoch and Ailes know The Donald is good for their business. So they will keep this monkey business going as long as the viewers and bucks keep flowing in.