The real reason Fox News gave in decided to play nice with Trump is that they were flooded with criticism from their viewers after Megyn Kelly went after the top Republican candidate.
Donald Trump returned to Fox and Friends this morning, where he was given his usual diet of Charmin fresh softballs to ramble on about. What was interesting about his appearance was that it even happened. Trump’s return to Fox marked a complete capitulation by the network after they tried to run him off of the stage during the first Republican 'debate'.
After Fox News had tried to ruin Trump’s candidacy during the debate, they were stunned by a viewer rebellion where Fox News watchers took the side of Trump over the network’s prized big star Megyn Kelly.
New York Magazine detailed the unexpected Fox News viewers rebellion:
According to two high-level Fox sources, Ailes’s diplomacy was the result of increasing concern inside Fox News that Trump could damage the network. Immediately following Thursday’s debate, Fox was deluged with pro-Trump emails. The chatter on Twitter was equally in Trump’s favor. “In the beginning, virtually 100 percent of the emails were against Megyn Kelly,” one Fox source, who was briefed on the situation, told me. “Roger was not happy. Most of the Fox viewers were taking Trump’s side.”
Things got worse for Ailes over the weekend. In a phone conversation, Trump told Hannity that “he was never doing Fox again,” according to one person with knowledge of the call. The anti-Kelly emails, and threat of a boycott by Trump, seem to have pushed Ailes to defuse the war. One Fox personality told me that Fox producers gave instructions to tell in-house talent not to bring up Trump’s controversial comments that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” during the debate. According to one count, Fox only aired Trump’s comment once since Friday, while CNN mentioned it at least 50 times.
In recent days, Ailes got a glimpse of what a Trump-less Fox News would look like. On Sunday, Trump called in to the four other public-affairs shows; this morning he gave interviews to Today and Morning Joe. Inside Fox, this was alarming. “This thing with Megyn got way ahead of Roger and bigger than he must have thought,” one Fox personality said. “Roger wants this to blow over,” another source added. “He’s upset that wingnuts are mad at Fox.” Online, Ailes also took flak. Both the Drudge Reject and Breitbart Spews carried pro-Trump headlines.
If Fox News ever lost the backing of wingnuts, the network would be toast. Fox News doesn’t many moderate or liberal viewers. Their audience is overwhelmingly wingnut Republicans. As a matter of survival, Ailes could not have his viewers favorite candidate boycotting his network.
The leadership at Fox obviously doesn’t understand their audience. Viewers support the bigotry, misogyny, and sexism of Trump. Racism and bigotry are two of the main reasons why Trump is so popular with Republican voters.
Fox News has lost control of zombie army that they created. Trump uses the same strategies as Fox News, but in many ways, he does them better. Fox News made Trump into a political figure by giving him a platform, but the billionaire has evolved and stolen the hearts of their audience.
The network’s debate strategy backfired. Trump has gained in popularity. One of their biggest stars was criticized, and wingnuts rebelled. Big bad Fox News was brought to its knees as Trump demonstrated that Fox is far from unbeatable.