Fox's Megyn Kelly defended herself Monday after a weekend of attacks from Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, over an exchange they had during last Thursday's GOP debate in Cleveland. But at a time when her network is trying to kiss and make up with Trump, Kelly chose not to fire back.
"Apparently Mr. Trump thought the question I asked was unfair and felt I was attacking him," Kelly said in a one-minute monologue at the start of her primetime program, The Kelly File. "I felt he was asked a tough but fair question."
Kelly had asked Trump about his history of sexist commentary. He defended his past remarks on the debate stage and then began a three-day Twitter and television tirade against Kelly, telling CNN on Friday night that she had "blood coming out of her ... wherever" during the debate. Trump later insisted he didn't mean to say she was motivated by her menstrual cycle.
While Kelly defended herself on The Kelly File Monday night, she took the high road — which also happens to be the best-interests-of-the-network road. She said she and Trump would have to "agree to disagree" and that she would "not apologize for doing good journalism":
You may have heard that there was a dust-up involving yours truly and presidential contender Donald Trump. Mr. Trump was upset with a question I asked him at the debate last week about his electability and specifically comments he has made in the past about women. A few words on that: Apparently Mr. Trump thought the question I asked was unfair and felt I was attacking him. I felt he was asked a tough, but fair, question. We agree to disagree.
Mr. Trump did interviews over the weekend that attacked me personally. I’ve decided not to respond. Mr. Trump is an interesting man who has captured the attention of the electorate. That’s why he’s leading in the polls. Trump, who is the front-runner, will not apologize. And I certainly will not apologize for doing good journalism. So, I’ll continue doing my job, without fear or favor, and Mr. Trump I expect will continue with what has been a successful campaign thus far. This is a tough business. And it’s time now to move forward. And now, let’s get back to the news.
Kelly's response came against the backdrop of Trump talking with Fox chief Roger Ailes by phone Monday so that the two men could start to patch up the relationship between the GOP frontrunner and the conservative-minded network.
Roger Ailes just called. He is a great guy & assures me that "Trump" will be treated fairly on @FoxNews. His word is always good!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2015
New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports that Ailes had become concerned about Trump's capacity to turn Fox viewers against the network. Trump called in to four of the five major Sunday political talk shows over the weekend, but not Fox.
According to two high-level Fox sources, Ailes's diplomacy was the result of increasing concern inside Fox News that Trump could damage the network. Immediately following Thursday's debate, Fox was deluged with pro-Trump emails. The chatter on Twitter was equally in Trump’s favor.
"In the beginning, virtually 100 percent of the emails were against Megyn Kelly," one Fox source, who was briefed on the situation, told me. "Roger was not happy. Most of the Fox viewers were taking Trump’s side."
The scrape has turned the Fox-Republican dynamic on its head. For years, Republican political candidates have sucked up to Fox to win access to, and the approval of, its viewers. Trump is so big, and so popular among Fox viewers, that Fox has decided it can't live without him. With new polls showing Trump hasn't lost any ground since the debate — and one showing a major boost for him since then — here's what it all means: At least for now, The Donald is the dominant force in Republican politics.
VIDEO: Donald Trump when asked about his past comments on women
Here are 9 more things to know to start the day.
1) Clinton and Rubio lock horns over abortion
Hillary Clinton picked a fight with Marco Rubio over abortion Monday, using an answer about Trump's comments to pivot to Rubio's revelation at Thursday's debate that he does not believe that laws restricting abortion should have exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
What Trump said was "offensive, outrageous, pick your adjective," Clinton told reporters Monday. "But what Marco Rubio said has as much of an impact in terms of where the Republican Party is today as anybody else on that stage, and it is deeply troubling."
Democrats believe Rubio and other Republicans really boxed themselves into extreme positions on abortion during the debate, and they are eager to make that an issue in the 2016 campaign. Rubio, whom many Democrats view as the greatest threat to Clinton, didn't miss an opportunity to show he's willing to fight Clinton on an issue that should help him with a fractured Republican primary electorate:
Hillary Clinton supports abortion even at the stage when an unborn child can feel pain; she has defended partial birth abortions as a 'fundamental right;' she opposes requiring parents to be notified that their minor daughter is having an abortion; she supports funding Planned Parenthood even after they have been exposed for their role in selling the organs of unborn children; and she supports using taxpayer money to pay for abortions overseas. Hillary Clinton holds radical views on abortion that we look forward to exposing in the months to come.
Rubio can't afford to worry about whether the position he's taking hurts him in the general election. He's not polling well enough for that. So this fight with Clinton is a good one in that it elevates him both as a leader in trying to curtail abortion and as a candidate who won't back down from Clinton. But, taking a step back, the important thing to note for the broader 2016 election dynamic is the dramatic Republican shift rightward on abortion. Here's what I wrote for Vox Monday:
In a larger sense, the return of abortion politics to the center of a presidential campaign is as potentially disastrous for the Republican Party writ large as it is satisfying to social conservatives. The fundamental problem for the GOP is that it is sprinting to the right on a major social issue that has tripped up its candidates over and over again. (Efforts to narrow abortion exceptions have led Republicans to debate "forcible rape," "legitimate rape," and now the value of a pregnant woman's life relative to her unborn baby.) The recent controversy over videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the price of fetal tissue has only invigorated social conservatives to make abortion rights a bigger issue.
At the same time, with a pro-choice woman likely to lead the Democratic Party in 2016 and the future composition of the Supreme Court possibly hanging in the balance in this election, Democrats are going to do everything in their power to persuade voters that the Republican nominee is too extreme on abortion rights. On Thursday, Rubio, Walker, and Huckabee probably helped them make that case.
VIDEO: Marco Rubio's comments on abortion
2) Rand Paul continues anti-Trump appeal to Tea Party voters
Over the weekend, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul told a county Republican Party in South Carolina that he's annoyed by Trump's ability to captivate Tea Party voters. Paul's take: Trump's a fake. But he's a fake who has won over a significant chunk of Paul's base. On Monday, the Kentucky senator lit into Trump again, as the New York Times reports:
Mr. Paul laid into Mr. Trump in an afternoon conference call, calling him "a bully" and an "empty suit," and comparing him to the "emperor with no clothes."
"Are we going to fix the country through bombast and empty blather?" Mr. Paul asked. "Somebody has to challenge him."
3) Jeb Bush: George who? Blame Iraq on Obama and Clinton
Jeb Bush has a major Iraq problem. Not only did his brother start the war, but his support comes from the GOP establishment, which is full of people who both advocated for the invasion of Iraq and still insist it was the right thing to do. Bush knows that's a popular position with his constituency but not necessarily with the rest of the Republican Party and definitely not with overall American electorate. After early stumbles, he came to the position that he wouldn't have ordered up the Iraq War given what he knows now. But he still has to come up with foreign policy prescriptions that please the Republicans who are already on his side and those he wants to court. For that, he needs Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as Eli Stokols reports for Politico:
Bush, who will speak at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Tuesday evening, will argue, as he often does on the campaign trail, that Clinton and Obama are to blame for the spread of ISIL across Iraq and Syria and for the broader instability in the Middle East.
The potent attack against the former Secretary of State and likely Democratic nominee is shrewd politics: focusing on America’s failure to keep the peace at the end of the Iraq War ignores the war’s beginning — enabling Bush to conveniently shift the the blame from his brother, who started the war he now admits was a mistake, to the Democrat he’d likely face should he become the GOP nominee.
I don't know if it's shrewd politics so much as the only viable option.
4) Sanders wins endorsement from largest union of registered nurses
Call 'em The Bern Unit. National Nurses United, a major caregivers union, gave Bernie Sanders its endorsement Monday, as CNN's Dan Merica reports:
The endorsement is significant because it is Sanders' first sizable union endorsement in his quest for the Democratic nomination and comes after Sanders and other Democratic candidates pitched themselves to the AFL-CIO, a group that includes the nurses union, last month.
"Bernie Sanders has a proven track record of uncompromised activism and advocacy for working people, and a message that resonates with nurses, and, as we have all seen, tens of thousands of people across the country," NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said in a press release announcing the endorsement. "He can talk about our issues as well as we can talk about our issues. We are proud to stand with him in his candidacy for president today."
5) Koch versus Trump: Club for Growth to fund almost anybody but Trump
The Club for Growth's political action wing isn't waiting for the rest of the GOP field to shake out. The Koch-aligned group of fiscal conservatives announced Monday that it will start bundling money for five Republican candidates, as Patrick O'Connor reports in the Wall Street Journal.
The five candidates for which the Club will officially bundle campaign contributions are: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading contender for the nomination who has struggled to gain traction with some conservatives.
"Five candidates are at the forefront of the Republican presidential field on issues of economic freedom, and the Club for Growth PAC is standing with them to help them stand out from the rest," said David McIntosh, president of the Club.
6) Bloomberg to Obama: Stop demonizing Iran deal opponents
Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is warning President Obama not to overplay his hand on the Iran nuclear deal:
If you oppose the Iranian nuclear agreement, you are increasing the chances of war. And if you are a Democrat who opposes the agreement, you are also risking your political career. That's the message the White House and some liberal leaders are sending — and they ought to stop now, because they are only hurting their credibility.
I have deep reservations about the Iranian nuclear agreement, but I — like many Americans — am still weighing the evidence for and against it. This is one of the most important debates of our time, one with huge implications for our future and security and the stability of the world. Yet instead of attempting to persuade Americans on the merits, supporters of the deal are resorting to intimidation and demonization, while also grossly overstating their case.
7) Protesters dispersed after state of emergency declared in Ferguson
There was relative order in Ferguson last night after St. Louis County authorities declared a state of emergency and handed power over to the police. In contrast to the shootout Sunday night, police reported only objects being thrown at them by a handful of demonstrators. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described the scene for its morning readers:
Shortly after 10 p.m., protesters began to scatter as police began to make arrests. There were about 50 reporters, 75 cops, and 150 protesters at the scene. Police made at least nine arrests for resisting or interfering with arrest, they said.
Shortly after midnight, police arrested several more people.
"Unruly crowd is throwing frozen water bottles at officers," the St. Louis County Police Department tweeted earlier in the evening, shortly after 10 p.m. "Those who choose to act violently will be arrested." Witnesses said police were using pepper spray.
8) Yuan dive: China devalues currency
The Wall Street Journal reports on the Chinese central bank's decision to devalue the yuan in an effort to reverse a slowdown in the economy:
Chinese authorities said the change would help drive the currency toward more market-driven movements. The move also signaled the government’s growing worry about slow growth. A shift toward a weaker currency could help flagging exports at a time when many other efforts to boost the economy haven’t proven very effective.
China’s yuan has been on an upward track for a decade, during which the country’s economy grew to be the second largest in the world and the currency gained importance globally. The devaluation Tuesday was the most significant downward adjustment to the yuan since 1994, when as part of a break from Communist state planning, Beijing let the currency fall by one-third.
9) Count your Lessigs: One is close to getting into the presidential race
Vox's Dylan Matthews has the story of the Harvard professor who hates big money enough to want to win the presidency only to resign it if he can rewrite campaign finance rules.
Harvard law professor and campaign finance activist Lawrence Lessig published a video Monday night announcing that he might run for president in the 2016 Democratic primaries.
Lessig says that if none of the existing Democratic candidates "commit to making this fundamental [campaign finance] reform the first priority of their administration," and if his crowdfunding campaign (website here) raises $1 million by Labor Day, he will run as what he calls a "referendum candidate." That means he'd promise to only serve as president until campaign finance reform is passed, and resign once it becomes law.
As several Democratic candidates, including frontrunner Hillary Clinton and longtime anti-PAC Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have made campaign finance reform central tenets of their candidacies, it's not really clear how Lessig would hope to compete, even on the single issue of his prospective campaign.