Ghavri: A Fit of Fury

by Anmol Ghavri | 1/27/16 7:47pm

On Tuesday night, during a rally in Iowa, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump announced that he would not be attending tonight’s Fox News debate. He invoked his contentious relationship with Fox News and Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, who he has called a “lightweight,” untalented, and unprofessional. He lashed out at Fox News for unfair treatment, his primary reason for skipping the debate. Trump’s bypassing of the debate is unprecedented, as he currently leads the large Republican field. Facing Trump’s allegations head on, Fox has actively defended Kelly.

In addition, Trump’s announcement came on the heels of a tongue-in-cheek statement from Fox News. Fox News told CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter, “We learned 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.

Although Trump was already considering taking the night off this evening because of his checkered past with Kelly, Fox’s statement threw him over the edge. It remains unclear whether Trump has overstepped his bounds. With the first caucuses rapidly approaching, his strategy could very well backfire. Trump’s aggressive, off-the-cuff style could have massive repercussions. Although his fiery demeanor has rallied supporters across the country, this time could be different. To bypass the debate because of alleged bias flies in the face of the confrontational style that Trump has embraced thus far.

Trump’s situation is even more precarious, as he already faces stiff competition from Sen. Ted Cruz. With the Iowa caucus on Feb. 1, Trump may have inadvertently given Cruz a bump in the polls. Tonight, Cruz and other GOP candidates will have the opportunity to make their case on stage without Trump looming over them. Every Republican candidate will be able to throw punches without fear of being hit back on national television. Who knows? The staunchly conservative Cruz may even take the lead in Iowa if the real estate mogul skips the debate. Amidst the political circus, one thing is clear ­— in a fit of fury, Trump may have just sealed his fate.

Furthermore, Cruz and other candidates will have the floor to endlessly spin the Fox News versus Trump feud as the nation watches. They will have control of the narrative, shaping the story to best fir their campaign strategies. In fact, Cruz has already gotten a head start. In recent days, he has portrayed Trump as a thin-skinned narcissist, calling him “a fragile soul.” Likewise, the Texas senator has said that Trump, “Owes it to the people of Iowa to have the humility to come in front of them, to make the case, answer the hard questions, and look them in the eyes.”

In contrast, other pundits have opined that Trump’s absence may bolster his already impressive national lead. At the moment, the billionaire sits between 33 and 41 percent, according to polls from NBC News/Wall Street Journal and CNN/ORC. According to this logic, Trump’s absence is him rallying against the conservative media establishment, all the while proving his conservatism. Moreover, his actions have already garnered an incredible amount of media attention, which will boost him even further in the polls.

In response to Trump’s opting out of the debate, Kelly responded, “Trump is used to controlling things, but he doesn’t get to control the media.” As of right now, it seems that Kelly will moderate tonight’s debate. According to a spokesperson for Fox News, “Megyn Kelly is an excellent journalist and the entire network stands behind her — she will absolutely be on the debate stage on Thursday night.”

If Kelly and Fox News are decidedly biased against Trump, he has all the more reason to stay in the debate. In true Trump style, he can counter thier attacks and maybe even win additional votes. However, his absence only validates the criticisms of detractors. By skipping the debate, Trump looks like an egotist who easily has his feathers ruffled. In other words, he plays right into the hands of his worst critics. Although he might change his mind at the last minute, Trump campaign officials have said that Trump will organize another event to replace the debate. “Let’s see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me,” Trump said. In the meantime, Trump is hoping to visit with members of Wounded Warriors Project in Iowa while other GOP candidates take the stage. Mr. Trump better hope that voters value some last minute philanthropy just as much as his appearance on the debate stage.