Trump’s feud with Fox exposes Republican cracks

Businessman boycotted high-profile debate after dispute with moderator Megyn Kelly

Presidential candidate Donald Trump claims Megyn Kelly unfairly questioned him in the first Republican debate. Photograph: Reuters

Presidential candidate Donald Trump claims Megyn Kelly unfairly questioned him in the first Republican debate. Photograph: Reuters

 

Businessman Donald Trump’s row with Fox News that boiled over this week leading to his decision to skip the television network’s debate last night has exposed fissures within the broader Republican family.

The property and entertainment tycoon boycotted the debate, the last before the first votes in the 2016 presidential election in Iowa on Monday, as the long-running dispute with the television network blew up again after the network issued a press release mocking him.

He had objected to Fox anchor Megyn Kelly being one of the debate moderators, claiming that she unfairly questioned him in the first Republican debate in August and has been biased towards him.

The row continued yesterday with Mr Trump, who is leading the Republican presidential polls, goading the television network that fewer people would tune in because he was not participating.

“The ‘debate’ tonight will be a total disaster – low ratings with advertisers and advertising rates dropping like a rock,” he wrote on Twitter, his favoured way of making campaign announcements.

Race to the White House

He urged viewers to tune into his televised debate-alternative event he hosted in Iowa to raise funds for war veterans that took place at the same time as the Fox debate.

Unconventional tactics

The move has appealed to some conservatives who believe that Fox News, America’s most-watched cable news network, has become more representative of the establishment wing of the Republican Party.

In an unusual move, two other presidential candidates, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, both past winners of the Iowa Republican caucus, said they would join Mr Trump on stage at his veterans event in Iowa after appearing on the Fox undercard debate.

Two political groups backing Texas senator Ted Cruz, Mr Trump’s closest rival in Iowa, offered to donate $1.5 million to veterans if he agreed to a head-to-head debate in the state before Monday’s caucus.

A new poll from NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and Marist showed Mr Trump moving further ahead of Mr Cruz among likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, giving him a seven-point lead.

Debate dispute

Hillary ClintonBernie Sanders

The Democrats have been having their own dispute over debates. Mrs Clinton and the other candidate Martin O’Malley agreed to attend a debate in New Hampshire before the state votes on February 9th. 

Mr Sanders initially objected to participating but eventually agreed to participate if Mrs Clinton agreed to three more debates, in March, April and May, and that none of these new debates would be held on a Friday, Saturday or a holiday weekend.

Mr Sanders and Mr O’Malley have criticised the Democratic National Committee for holding debates at low-viewing times, claiming that it hands Mrs Clinton as the front-runner an advantage.