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Ezra Klein's Trumpsplainer Is Excellent!

Ezra Klein: Donald Trump's Fight with Fox News and Megyn Kelly, Explained: "How did we get to the point where the leading Republican candidate for president...

...is accusing one of Fox News's signature hosts of going on a PMS-fueled rant against him? The answer is surprisingly complex... not just about what happened at Thursday's debate.... also about the way Fox News had... been inflating the Trump bubble, and... tension between Fox... as a ratings-obsessed cable network, an actual journalistic outlet, and... [part of] the Republican Party.... Start with... the debate, and why it left Trump feeling so betrayed.... Until Thursday, Fox News had been one of Trump's most important allies.... But there's been at least one powerful critic of Trump at Fox News: Rupert Murdoch.... This week, Ailes told his senior executives during a meeting that Murdoch recently called him and asked if Fox could 'back off the Trump coverage'.... Murdoch loathed Trump so much that he took to Twitter to make his feelings known. 'When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?' he asked....

Trump stepped onto the Fox News debate stage and suddenly found the network seemingly committed to his destruction. The first question was designed to embarrass Trump.... Megyn Kelly's first question for Trump exposed his rampant misogyny in front of a national audience. "You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,'" she began.... Trump's answer was a master class in how to excuse sexism and wield the politics of white male resentment.... The next question to Trump came from Chris Wallace... again... designed to embarrass.... The demolition effort didn't end with the questions. As soon as the debate ended, Fox News cut to a focus group being conducted by pollster Frank Luntz... about how the focus group came in liking Trump and left loathing him.... His onetime friends at Fox News crafted the questions to embarrass him and then... cut to a focus group--and who knows if that was a real focus group or actors who were coached on what to say--who told the whole country that Trump had lost the debate.... The next day on Twitter, Trump had a full-on anti-Kelly tantrum... also attacked some other Fox News personalities... notably Frank Luntz... assault... vicious and personal towards Kelly in a way that it hasn't been towards her co-moderators Baier and Wallace....

Fox News is a... conservative advocacy organization run by a longtime Republican operative.... [and] a profit-hungry cable network run by a talented media executive.... Fox News wants the Republican Party to win elections... [and] politics to be a ridiculous circus that fires up conservative voters. It employs hacks like Steve Doocy and Sean Hannity... is arguably more powerful in shaping the opinions of GOP voters than the official Republican Party apparatus.... As heterodox conservative commentator David Frum said, 'Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.' This is the dilemma that Trump now faces. He originally thought Fox worked for him. he was on all the time, he was helping them get higher ratings, and they seemed to love him. But... first, Fox's promotion of Trump worked too well... went from making the Republican primary more interesting... and thus better for ratings... [to] potentially harming the ideological movement.... Second... Baier, Kelly, and Wallace want to... prove their journalistic bona fides to the world. So where other Fox personalities wanted to treat Trump well in the hopes he would come back on their shows, Baier, Kelly, and Wallace wanted to embarrass Trump.... Fox figured out how to profit off Trump coming and going, and, better yet, they got to decide when Trump was coming and when Trump was going.

Now Trump and Fox News are at war. And, as Nate Silver writes, this is a war Trump probably can't win. Until now, Trump has mostly been fighting with institutions that Republicans mistrust.... But 80 percent of Republicans trust Fox News.... Trump's feeling that he's been betrayed by Fox News is understandable, even if his reaction to it is gross and childish. But his declaration of war against a major Fox News personality is unwise...

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