PREVIOUSLY, 5:21 PM: “I don’t like being used,” Donald Trump told Bill O’Reilly today about why he’s taking his mega-ratings ball with him and boycotting tomorrow’s Fox News-hosted GOP debate. “I was not treated well by Fox. They came out with this ridiculous PR statement that was like drawn up by a child, and it was a taunt,” the candidate told the FNC host tonight, praising him over his colleague Megyn Kelly. “And I said, ‘How much of this do you take?’ I have zero respect for Megyn Kelly, I don’t think she’s very good at what she does. She’s highly overrated.”
While an escalating open war of words with Fox News currently has the former Apprentice host snubbing the GOP debate tomorrow night because of the presence of “lightweight” moderator Kelly, Trump taped an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor today for tonight. “It’s called an eye for an eye,” Trump told O’Reilly about why he dropped out the debate. “You are taking this much more seriously that I am. I’m not walking away — I was pushed away,” said Trump. O’Reilly called the whole thing “petty,” implored Trump to “rise above” and reconsider joining the debate while Trump plugged his own event.
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“News organizations can’t allow any outside person to dictate coverage,” noted O’Reilly at the top of the show. “Most politicians would have dodged this interview,” he told Trump, thanking him for coming on The Factor. “I have to tell you something: I don’t think not showing up at the debate tomorrow night is good for America.”
“Fox is going to make a lot of money on the debate,” Trump said, citing the ad sales the cable news net has had. “Now they are going to make much less. … I don’t really care.” After O’Reilly defended Kelly’s line of questioning in Fox News’ GOP debate in August, Trump also said: “Let’s talk about something more important, Bill. Let’s talk about something more important. This is not that important.”
Airing just before The Kelly File and seemingly in competition with its rising lead-out, the 8 PM ET O’Reilly-hosted cable news ratings giant dedicated a significant and multi-segment portion of Wednesday’s show to Trump. Which means even with the politics-within-office-politics at play here and if FNC takes an expected ratings hit with a Trump-free debate, the Roger Ailes-run newser undoubtedly will see big numbers for The Factor tonight – a backhanded win-win in a very weird election season.
Knowing that they have the media story of the day, Trump and O’Reilly both took to Twitter this afternoon to hype the real estate mogul’s appearance on the show:
I will be interviewed on @oreillyfactor tonight at 8:00 P.M. (Eastern). Enjoy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2016
Trump not wanting to debate on Fox, but he’ll talk to me tonight on The Factor. Biggest story in the country, we’ll have it w/ no spin -BO’R
— Bill O’Reilly (@oreillyfactor) January 27, 2016
Later Trump put the blame of his debate absence on FNC’s statement more than his issues with Kelly, who he had a squabble with after the viewership-record-breaking first GOP debate back in August.
It was the childishly written & taunting PR statement by Fox that made me not do the debate, more so than lightweight reporter, @megynkelly.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2016
Trump-O’Reilly chat tonight. Unmissable!!!!!!! -BO’R @realDonaldTrump
— Bill O’Reilly (@oreillyfactor) January 28, 2016
On Thursday night at the exact same time as the GOP debate is going on, Trump will be two miles away from the FNC-hosted venue in Des Moines, IA, with his own event at Drake University for veterans with the Wounded Warrior Project. “We would welcome that opportunity,” Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN today of media coverage of the WWP event. “I think we will have much better viewership than what you’ll see on the Fox News debate tomorrow night.”
No doubt trying to quell its glee, the Obama administration had something to say about the jostling on the other side of the aisle.
“We’ve seen over the last several months that Mr. Trump has repeatedly chosen to kick reporters out of the room for asking tough questions,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today when the Trump and FNC situation was brought up at his daily briefing. “It appears he’s taking that approach to a new level by avoiding those questions entirely.”
“It was a tough interview, I tell you,” Trump teased to a rally in South Carolina right before The Factor aired tonight. “He’s a good guy, right?’ he added to the Lexington crowd, encouraging his audience to watch the repeat of the show when they got home. “I refuse to talk about that,” Trump said later with a not-veiled reference to the first GOP debate last summer and “unfair questions” from Kelly.“Fox News is comprised of a whole series of anchors and the event that he’s doing tonight, the interview that he’s doing tonight with Bill O’Reilly was long scheduled before this took place,” Lewandowski told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday about why he was talking to O’Reilly but not attending the debate. “He held to our commitment, they held to their commitment, so we did that we did that because we had made that promise and when we make a promise we keep it except when people treat Mr. Trump unfairly.”
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