UPDATE, with Donald Trump’s response: “I do not think Megyn Kelly is a quality journalist,” Donald Trump has responded to Fox News chairman/CEO Roger Ailes statement this morning that the GOP White House frontrunner should apologize for his latest Twittertack on FNC star Megyn Kelly.

“I think her questioning of me, despite all of the polls saying I won the debate, was very unfair. Hopefully in the future I will be proven wrong and she will be able to elevate her standards to a level of professionalism that a network such as Fox deserves.”

Saying “I totally disagree” with what Ailes had to say, Trump added/promoted: “I will be in Iowa tonight with my speech being broadcast live on CNN and other networks.”

PREVIOUS, 10 AM: Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes this morning blasted GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “surprise and unprovoked attack” on Megyn Kelly via Twitter during her return to the network’s lineup last night. Ailes called Trump’s Twittertack “as unacceptable as it is disturbing” (full text below).

Lisa DeMoraes TV badge verticalThe biggest battle of this presidential race isn’t between GOP front-runner Trump and fellow candidate Jeb Bush, or even Trump and Hillary Clinton. It’s the rumpus between Trump and Fox News Channel star Kelly, which is back in high gear this morning after she returned from vacation, on which she’d left shortly after grilling the candidate during the first GOP debate.

The media was plunged into a state of high knicker-knottedness after Kelly made no mention of Trump on her return to the air last night, while Trump torched her on Twitter. The next morning, even presidential candidates got sucked into a Trump-Kelly vortex, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who thought he was appearing on CNN to discuss Trump’s immigrant deportation plan and had prepped some really zippy material, like calling Trump’s strategy “Joseph McCarthy-like.” But CNN’s Kate Bolduan was having none of it, and kept her questions laser-focused on the Trump-Kelly kerfuffle.

Trump had heralded the return of Kelly to Fox News Channel’s lineup last night on Twitter:

He also re-tweeted some of his followers’ thoughts on the subject:

“Cylber bullying,” screeched one media pundit. What’s next — the “C-word?” hand-wrung another. “Creepy harassment” scolded yet another reporter  — all of which suggests they’ve never covered a presidential election cycle before, and think Kelly is a damsel in need of a good rescue.

Kelly, who’d explained this is a tough business before taking off for vaca, may not have mentioned Trump on her show last night, but she did tweet about him and his immigration policy:

Kelly first pushed Trump’s buttons on the night of the debate, when she asked him to address comments he had made in the past, including calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”

“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump shot back, getting a laugh in the hall that turned what could have been a trainwreck into a scene-stealing moment for the real-estate mogul/reality-TV star.

But, of course, the Trump smackdown actually had started earlier in the debate when Kelly’s fellow FNC moderator Bret Baier opened the debate by asking the candidates to raise their hand if they could not swear to support whoever became the GOP nominee and to not run as a third-party candidate. Trump alone raised his hand, and Baier asked sternly if he realized running as a third-party nom most likely meant handing the Oval Office to the Dem candidate.

“I understand,” Trump responded, adding, “I can totally make that pledge if I am the nominee, I will not run as independent.”

With that exchange, Trump seemed to signal the official start of his rumble with FNC over control of Republican party base this election cycle.

Here is Ailes’ full statement today:

“Donald Trump’s surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at FOX News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise. I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump’s verbal assaults. Her questioning of Mr. Trump at the debate was tough but fair, and I fully support her as she continues to ask the probing and challenging questions that all presidential candidates may find difficult to answer. Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should. We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone and we’re certainly not going to start now. All of our journalists will continue to report in the fair and balanced way that has made FOX News Channel the number one news network in the industry.”

Roger Ailes
Chairman & CEO
FOX News