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Donald Trump To Skip Fox News Debate Over Megyn Kelly Spat


Now we're going to get the back story to the ill will between Donald Trump and Fox News. This is what led to Trump refusing to participate in the GOP debate Fox is hosting tomorrow. Trump says he'll hold an event to raise money for injured soldiers instead. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik breaks down the breakdown between the Republican front-runner and the cable channel that's the favorite of many Republicans.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Let's set the scene and then make a few points. Trump has been seething at Fox News and Megyn Kelly ever since she asked him during the first debate the season about his disparagement of women.


DONALD TRUMP: Who ever even heard of her before the last debate?

FOLKENFLIK: Here's Trump speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer.


TRUMP: I'm not a fan of Megyn Kelly. I don't like her. She probably doesn't like me, and that's OK.

FOLKENFLIK: Trump was tough on her. Some of his supporters were brutal and demanding her removal. Point number one - Kelly performed strongly in August, asking pointed questions civilly. Fox New chairman Roger Ailes has rightly stood behind her in a series of public statements. Network officials would not give interviews about the spat, but one of those statements yesterday came loaded with snark. Here's CNN's Alisyn Camerota reading it.


ALISYN CAMEROTA: We learned, Fox News said, from a secret back channel that the ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.

LYNN VAVRECK: Yeah, I think the race to the bottom here is quite swift.

FOLKENFLIK: UCLA political scientist Lynn Vavreck studies the media and presidential elections.

VAVRECK: The press release from the network, I think, is unprecedented in my memory in terms of a major news network taunting or mocking a presidential candidate, you know, a front-runner in one of the parties.

FOLKENFLIK: And that's the second point. Fox may have been joking, but could you imagine The New York Times doing that, ABC News? Trump has made demands before, once insisting CNN give money to charity on the grounds he had hugely boosted its ratings. That went by the wayside. At a press conference last night in Iowa, Trump said his decision to walk away from the debate is near-irrevocable.


TRUMP: I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing.

FOLKENFLIK: And here's why Trump thought he could do it.


TRUMP: It's a little bit different. They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else, so let them have their debate, and let's see how they do with the ratings.

FOLKENFLIK: So there you have point three. Trump has been a ratings bonanza, giving the networks both luster and cash. Even so, Glenn Hammer argues Trump risks turning off voters who think he's shying away from a tough questioner. Hammer is the CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and he's also the former executive director of the Arizona state Republican Party.

GLENN HAMMER: The real question is what effect will it have in Iowa? It's going to help the other candidates who are attending more than it will help Donald Trump, who will not be attending.

FOLKENFLIK: Yet here we are, talking not about Marco Rubio - Hammer's choice - or Trump's chief rival in Iowa, Sen. Ted Cruz, but Trump. And that's point four. Trump knows how to define and how to own the news cycle. On Megyn Kelly's show last night, the progressive filmmaker Michael Moore observed it all with amazement.


MICHAEL MOORE: To get elected president in this country, you have to come on this network. You have to play ball with this network. Donald Trump today said, I'm not playing ball with this network. That's a historic moment, and it's going to be interesting to see, you know, where the real power is.

FOLKENFLIK: Trump isn't boycotting Fox News altogether. He's appeared tonight on a more sympathetic forum, Bill O'Reilly's show. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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