In this unprecedented presidential election cycle, the media itself has taken on an unprecedented role in the action — becoming almost as much of the story as the major party candidates. The mainstream media’s liberal bias has long been a given, though largely denied or dismissed as conservative paranoia or conspiracy theory. However, in the match-up between GOP nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, some — such as The New York Times and CNN — have come out and explicitly acknowledged they’ve moved beyond mere reporting (or, more to the point, even attempting the appearance of it) and are taking an active role in advocating for one candidate in particular.For conservatives, Fox News has long been one of the few major outlets which could be relied on to provide a more “fair and balanced” perspective. This season, however, some of the network’s coverage and on-air personalities have come under fire for what’s been perceived as being unfairly tough on Republican candidates.
Fox’s Megyn Kelly was at the center of such controversy following her moderation of the first GOP presidential debate on Fox News, which she opened with a controversial question about Trump’s past remarks about women. Kelly drew the ire of both Trump himself and many Republican viewers as posing a question that smacked more of one from the opposition than one from the sole major Republican “friendly” network.Now, Kelly is once again under fire — but this time from one of her colleagues at Fox. Sean Hannity even went so far as to accuse Kelly of the unthinkable — actually supporting Hillary Clinton.
A brewing professional rivalry between two of the biggest stars on Fox News turned openly hostile on Wednesday, as Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly traded insults over their vastly divergent approaches to covering the 2016 presidential race.The unusually public exchange began when Kelly criticized Trump for refusing to conduct interviews in “unsafe spaces,” opting instead for the friendly confines of Hannity’s show.
“Donald Trump, with all due respect to my friend at 10 o’clock, will go on ‘Hannity’ and pretty much only ‘Hannity’ and will not venture out to the unsafe spaces these days which doesn’t exactly expand the tent for either one of them,” Kelly said during a Wednesday broadcast of “The Kelly File.”
Hannity tweeted at Kelly soon afterwards, telling her to direct her ire at Hillary Clinton instead and adding: “Clearly you support her.”
Later challenged on social media to “stand by your colleagues,” Hannity took another swipe at Kelly, saying he would do so “when they stand by me.”
Sure. When they stand by me. https://t.co/UrFbBVfEMI
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) October 6, 2016
Hannity has been an outspoken supporter of the Republican nominee, telling viewers in June that he’d be voting for the real estate mogul come November. His many interviews of Trump have been widely panned as open advocacy for a presidential candidate.
Hannity was featured prominently in a Trump presidential campaign ad in late August, prompting Fox to prohibit him from appearing in any future promotional materials for his candidacy. The New York Times reported on Aug. 21 that Hannity has informally advised Trump on campaign strategy.
In contrast to Hannity’s unabashed support, Kelly’s relationship with Trump has been openly contentious, with the two sniping at each other as recently as Tuesday’s vice presidential debate, when Trump refuted Kelly’s observation that he was “surrounded by his team” as he live-tweeted the event.
Trump has repeatedly attacked Kelly in strikingly personal terms since the first GOP presidential debate on Fox News, when she pushed him to defend his past remarks about women.
Afterwords, Trump called Kelly a “loser” and a “bimbo” on his Twitter account, and described her as “sick” and “overrated.” He also said in a TV interview that Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes — blood coming out of her whatever.” Fox defended Kelly aggressively, and it reportedly took the personal intervention of former network chief Roger Ailes to get Trump to stand down.
Trump skipped a Fox-hosted debate in January ahead of the Iowa caucuses, saying that Kelly, a co-moderator, would be biased against him. He later attended a third primary debate hosted by Kelly without incident, but continued to criticize her in the weeks that followed for booking anti-Trump guests on 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 who wants to occupy the highest office in the land” Fox responded in March.
In April, Kelly visited him at Trump Tower to “clear the air,” she said on her show at the time — and to tee up an interview with Trump.
The two seemingly made up in a Fox broadcast special in May that was seen by many as a way to test Kelly out with a broader audience, though the interview was full of softball questions and the ratings were a disappointing 4.8 million.
Kelly has been booed by live audiences on Hannity’s program, but in May, she credited him as “somebody who behind the scenes tried to cool the temperatures off” during her feud with Trump.
“And he didn’t have to do it,” she said. “He did, so I’m grateful to him.”
But Hannity and Kelly have differed not only in their approach to Trump, but also with regard to Ailes, who was ousted following allegations of sexual harassment. Hannity was an ardent defender of the former Fox boss, while Kelly remained pointedly silent.
Wednesday’s exchange between the two Fox stars also comes as competition has continued to heat up within the network, with Hannity recently overtaking Kelly in cable news ratings among the prized 25 to 54 demographic for the month of September.
Kelly’s contract ends sometime next year, while Hannity’s is through 2020. The parent company of Fox News, 21st Century Fox, seems intent on keeping Kelly around — but the two parties have yet to reach terms.
A Fox News spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
To be fair, Kelly recently called on Hillary Clinton to come on her show as well — calling out the Democrat nominee similarly for avoiding unsafe spaces. And, if we truly had an objective Fourth Estate in this country these days, we might expect and even applaud comments such as Kelly’s.
Part of the problem is that with media organizations having turned into Super PACS for the candidates — and the majority of them for the Democrat nominee — what might otherwise be seen as objective treatment of the candidates on Fox can be deemed unduly tough or unfair to Republicans, given that Fox has been the only major broadcast outlet where they could expect to receive fair treatment.
What do y’all think about this latest incident? Do you agree with Megyn Kelly or Sean Hannity here?
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]