Donald Trump speaks with Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly after a Republican presidential candidate debate
Fox News is shocked, utterly shocked, that its favorite billionaire is fixated on one of its anchors and calling for a boycott of her show.
“Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her is beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate,” the network huffed. “As the mother of three young children … it’s especially deplorable for her to be repeatedly abused just for doing her job.”
Someone’s got to say it: Sick right wing obsessions were just fine with Fox until Trump became consumed with his grudge against Kelly and told his nearly 7.3 million Twitter followers to boycott The Kelly File.
For at least the past five years, both Trump and Fox News have had a vitriolic and sick obsession with the idea that President Obama was born in Kenya, and therefore isn’t a natural born U.S. citizen and is ineligible for the presidency (aka the “birther” conspiracy). During the 2012 presidential campaign, Fox went full birther. In just a few weeks in spring 2011, for instance, the network devoted more than 50 segments and more than two hours of air time to the subject. Trump frequently received a free platform to promote himself and his outrageous, unsupported speculations about the location of Obama’s birthplace.
These segments were all over the Fox network, featuring Fox hosts such as Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, Jeanine Pirro, Brian Kilmeade, Greta Van Susteren, and others.
There is as much evidence for Obama being born in Kenya as for Trump being born in Mexico City and smuggled secretly into the United States. That is to say, none. The talk was as worthless as a Trump University diploma. Trump’s obsession with “birtherism” was valuable, however, for Fox’s ratings and profits — and Fox obviously didn’t care that it was bad for the country.
Trump is also obsessed with the delusion that Mexico is sending us its rapists and criminals (spoiler alert: Trump has no evidence this is happening). Fox supported Trump’s fixation on Mexican immigrants, and again gave him a platform. After all, blaming immigrants for crime was good for Fox’s ratings and profits.
Yet another of Trump’s sick fixations is with Muslim-Americans. He claims they cheered for the 9/11 attacks, but they didn’t. Trump further demands that Muslims be banned from entering the United States and that those Muslims already here register with the federal government. Again, Fox gave Trump a platform for his unsupported and inflammatory views. It was good for Fox’s ratings and profits to scapegoat a minority group.
Fox has also been chief enabler for other right-wing obsessions, such as the vitriolic and sick attacks on law student Sandra Fluke, who dared to champion a view on reproductive rights that didn’t fit the right wing political agenda. At various times on Fox, Fluke was called stupid, a slut and worse. Even Kelly joined in the attacks, saying Fluke “doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” The public shaming was a warning to others who spoke up instead of bowing down to the Fox political propaganda machine.
In the face of Trump’s assault on Kelly, Fox’s concern for her children is laudable. But what about Obama’s two children? Did anyone at Fox ask how they must have felt, to continually hear broadcasts hinting that their father wasn’t really an American? And Fox clearly hasn’t been concerned about the children of Mexican-Americans or Muslim-Americans.
Fox was perfectly happy all these years to give Trump and others a platform to rant about their weird and unfounded obsessions, which often involved the trashing of innocent Americans. None of this (according to Fox) was unbecoming for a presidential candidate. Trump’s criticism of Fox, however, is unacceptable. Really, Fox? After all the hateful innuendo you’ve broadcast, including character attacks on all sorts of Americans, can you truly expect us to sympathize because Trump had the audacity to train his fire on you?
I don’t know whether we should laugh at Fox for its sudden self-righteousness, or cry for the state of our republic.
I feel for Megyn Kelly, but Fox News — you are the schoolyard bully of the American media landscape. And like all other puffed-up bullies, you can dish it out, but you just can’t take it.
Steven Strauss is the John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs & Co. Visiting Professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Follow him on Twitter @Steven_Strauss.
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.To read more columns like this, go to the Opinion front page.