Standing Up To Bullies

Fox News’s Bret Baier to Donald Trump: Stop Trashing Megyn Kelly

The Fox News host on Trump’s vitriolic obsession with his female colleague: ‘It’s not at all comfortable.’

03.19.16 2:42 PM ET

Fox News’s Bret Baier wishes Donald Trump would cease harassing his colleague Megyn Kelly.

 “It bothers me,” Baier told The Daily Beast on Friday evening, when asked about the Republican presidential frontrunner’s obsessive attacks on “Crazy Megyn,” as the Twitter-fixated Trump has started calling the anchor of prime time’s highly-rated The Kelly File.

“It really upsets me,” Baier added. At the very same moment, the reality-show billionaire was in act of tweeting further insults against Kelly: “Everybody should boycott the @megynkelly show. Never worth watching. Always a hit on Trump! She is sick, & the most overrated person on tv.”

“It’s not at all comfortable,” said Baier, who will be conducting separate interviews in Washington on Monday—with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, but not with Trump—for his Special Report program, instead of co-moderating a Fox News-sponsored GOP debate in Salt Lake City.

The debate was cancelled because Trump refused to show up and Kasich dropped out because Trump wouldn’t appear, leaving the perhaps unworkable option of Cruz debating himself.  

Instead, Trump will appear today at a town hall in Tucson, Ariz., moderated by one of Fox News’s Trump-friendly hosts, Sean Hannity, which will air on Monday night.

 “That’s a comfortable environment for him,” Baier said about the Hannity town hall, “and he obviously does well in those events. His supporters love his style and Arizona clearly lines up for him with the immigration debate playing heavily in the state.”

Why, then, is the prospect of being grilled by Bret Baier decidedly not comfortable for Trump?

“I try to listen to the answer and follow up,” Baier replied, “and there are a lot of things to follow up with in some of Donald Trump’s answers. “ Baier added with a laugh: “I’ve done interviews with Trump and some I’ve done in the past have ended up in a couple of Ted Cruz ads and other ads. But I think I’m tough on everybody.”

Because all three remaining Republican candidates plan to be in Washington on Monday to speak to gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, Baier tried to entice them to engage in what he calls “a mini Lincoln-Douglas debate,” sitting around a table with him in the Special Report studio and hashing out the issues.

But, once again, it was a deal-killer for everyone when Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski informed Baier that the candidate’s busy schedule just wouldn’t permit it.

Meanwhile, Baier has tried to occupy a middle ground concerning the ongoing controversy involving the buzz-cut Lewandowski and former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields, who filed a police complaint against Lewandowski and quit her job after her bosses published stories questioning her account of how the Trump campaign manager manhandled her at a Super Tuesday election-night event.

“We’ve covered all sides of it. We’ve covered Michelle Fields’s side and we’ve covered Trump’s side.  We’ve covered the different videos,” Baier said. “If it is as Michelle Fields describes it—and I don’t think there’s definitive proof either way—I clearly feel for a reporter who feels like she was treated that way. I think the White House Correspondents Association put out a statement that pretty much reflects where reporters are.”

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The association, which represents journalists credentialed to the White House, took no position on the specific facts of the incident but declared:

"Broadly speaking, the WHCA unequivocally condemns any act of violence or intimidation against any journalist covering the 2016 campaign, whether perpetrated by a candidate’s supporters, staff or security officers. We expect that all contenders for the nation’s highest office agree that this would be unacceptable."

Trump, at his campaign rallies, regularly calls out the journalists covering him—occasionally by name—as “absolute scum” and “disgusting people.” Baier, for his part, said: “I hope the treatment of reporters overall gets to the level where this is a presidential race.”

That hardly seems likely, at least where Trump is concerned. On Friday night, after the frontrunner urged his supporters to boycott Megyn Kelly, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes authorized a tough response, giving no quarter:

“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,” the statement said in part. “Megyn is an exemplary journalist and one of the leading anchors in America—we’re extremely proud of her phenomenal work and continue to fully support her throughout every day of Trump’s endless barrage of crude and sexist verbal assaults.” 

“I think the network has put out a number of statements in support of Megyn, and I have in the past as well,” Baier said. “But at some point we’ll have to move on to just covering the race. That is his [Trump's] choice, how he chooses to deal with it. It’s not how I would advise if I were advising him. But I’m not. I’m covering it. And I know Megyn is a pro and she handles all of the adversity like a champ.”

Trump’s attacks frequently unleash a firestorm of ugly invective from thousands of his less civil supporters. But Kelly—who during a brief moment in early March seemed to have fallen off Trump’s enemies list after he exchanged pleasantries with her during a Fox News debate for which she, Baier and Chris Wallace were co-moderators—has shown no signs of crumbling under pressure.

“It would get to anybody,” Baier said. “But she handles it better than anybody I’ve seen.”