Virtually everyone at Fox News, from the channel’s contributors all the way to its CEO Roger Ailes, is condemning Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for once again lobbing misogynist insults at Fox anchor Megyn Kelly.
After Trump called Kelly a “bimbo” and suggested she was rapidly aging, Fox personalities quickly came to Kelly’s defense; Ailes himself told Politico that “Donald Trump’s surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing.” The channel’s counter-reaction would be admirable, even understandable, were it not for the fact that Fox News has repeatedly and gleefully peddled sexist attacks on women for years.
This point is fairly easy to illustrate. Last week—before Trump’s latest attack and shortly after he suggested Kelly had been menstruating during the first Fox News debate among GOP presidential contenders—the liberal media watchdog site Media Matters collected 70 examples of Fox News’ endemic sexism in a six-minute video:
One of the more vivid moments, from a 2013 episode of Hannity, features radio host Bill Cunningham telling the television commentator Tamara Holder to “know your role and shut your mouth” while wagging his finger at Holder. This instance was particularly gross because Holder is a paid Fox News contributor, whereas Cunningham is a Tri-State area broadcaster who happens to be friends with Sean Hannity. And Cunningham continued to appear on the channel! Fox News provides men a safe space for publicly subordinating women, including those on Fox’s payroll.
Fox’s reaction to Trump’s comments is disingenuous for another reason: When Trump began attacking Kelly shortly after the first Republican debate in July, Fox executives decided to preserve their relationship with the real estate mogul rather than defend Kelly. As a Fox source told Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine earlier this month:
After Trump told Sean Hannity in a weekend phone call that he was “never doing Fox again,” appeared on four non-Fox public-affairs shows on Sunday, and did interviews with Today and Morning Joe on Monday, Ailes raised the white flag and picked up the phone on Monday morning. “Roger wanted a friendly relationship,” the source explained.
In his most recent statement to Politico, Roger Ailes acknowledged that “Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should.” But remember, Ailes capitulated to Trump even after the candidate implied that Kelly may have been been on her period when she questioned the candidate: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes ... Blood coming out of her wherever.” Trump refused to apologize for that comment; in what world would he apologize for calling Kelly a “bimbo”?
As many have noted, Fox News has been an integral part of Trump’s rise within the Republican Party, having lent him profuse amounts of publicity and the institutional support of its most popular hosts. And, as you can see in the highlight reel above, Trump’s most outrageous tendencies just happen to mirror those of Fox News itself. Before Fox News opines on Trump’s sexism toward Megyn Kelly, it might want to ask itself where Trump got the idea that attacking women—at Fox News or otherwise—would not only be tolerated, but rewarded.