The Slatest

The Donald Trump-Fox News War Will Never End

Donald Trump participates in the first prime-time presidential debate, hosted by Fox News, in Cleveland.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s on-again, off-again feud with Fox News is back on. Given the results of their previous spats, which garnered lots of attention for all involved, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

That tweet was the culmination of a multi-day Twitter fit that included complaints about Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, and what Trump claims was the network’s decision to ignore a recent Zogby poll that suggested the current GOP front-runner’s lead on his rivals actually grew in the wake of the second Republican debate, at which he wasn’t his usual Trumpian self. (His two-point gain in that poll was well within the survey’s margin of error; the Donald does not concern himself with such details.)

The official company line from Fox News, meanwhile, is that Trump decided to boycott the channel only after the network told him it had canceled his upcoming appearance on The O’Reilly Factor that had been scheduled for Thursday night. “The press predictably jumped to cover the tweet, creating yet another distraction from any real issues that Mr. Trump might be questioned about,” Fox News told the Huffington Post in a statement. “When coverage doesn’t go his way, he engages in personal attacks on our anchors and hosts, which has grown stale and tiresome. He doesn’t seem to grasp that candidates telling journalists what to ask is not how the media works in this country.”

For those keeping track at home, this is at least the third time that Trump has waged war with the conservative network over what he says is unfair coverage of his presidential campaign. The first came after the Aug. 6 debate, when Trump took (possibly menstruation-themed) issue with Kelly and her fellow moderator’s aggressive questioning of him during the primetime event. That spat only lasted a few days before Fox News chief Roger Ailes reached out to mend fences. Later that same month, Trump went on another late-night Twitter tirade about Kelly. Two days later, Trump and Ailes again made nice—but only after the Fox News chief and a number of his on-air personalities came to Kelly’s defense. “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,” Ailes said then.

And that’s right where both sides appear to have returned to: Trump flexing his I-don’t-need- Fox muscles to try to prove he’s his own man (and get more coverage, which works, clearly), and Fox striking an aggressive posture toward Trump to try to boost its journalistic bona fides.

For all the bickering between the current Republican front-runner and the Republican Party’s favorite news network, neither side appears any worse for wear. Despite the grilling Trump received at the first debate in Cleveland—and his talk show tantrums that followed—his polling lead only grew in the days and weeks after. Meanwhile, what Trump says and what Trump does has continued to dominate the political conversation on other news networks, as well as on social media.

Fox News, similarly, has every reason to cheer Trump on in the control room. For the second time this year, Fox topped every other cable channel (not just the news ones) in total primetime viewers in August—a month, not incidentally, where it gave Trump three times as much airtime than any other GOP candidate. The Kelly File, The O’Reilly Factor, and Hannity were the three most-watched cable news shows in the prized 25-54 demo.

After the Fox News debate in August, the big question was who would win in a fight between Donald Trump and Fox News. Seven weeks and three very public feuds later, it’s starting to look like the answer is: both of them.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.