Trump makes poor showing in Republican primary debate on Fox

Credit: Maegha Singh/ Credit: Maegha Singh/
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On Aug. 6, during the first (technically second) Republican presidential debate, Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace worked as moderators to challenge each of the top ten Republican candidates with individually tailored questions.

For instance, Governor Scott Walker (R–WI) was asked a question about the recent bill he signed into law banning abortions past 20 weeks, even in cases of rape, incest, or severe fetal anomalies. Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) was asked why the nation should trust him with the economy when New Jersey under his terms in office ranked 44th in the nation in terms of job creation. Ben Carson was pointedly asked why, without any political experience, he could be trusted with the nation’s highest office. Yet, none of these tough, targeted questions drew more ire and controversy than those asked to Donald Trump.

The businessman and current leader in the Republican field immediately found a target on his back when Baier opened the debate by asking if every candidate could promise to support the eventual nominee. Although directed to all the candidates, the question clearly targeted Trump, who has been considered most likely to make a third party run. Baier made it clear that his doing so would presumably hand the presidency to the Democratic nominee.

A question on immigration, the topic that has been the largest source of Trump’s political strength, was answered fairly well and received applause from the undoubtedly conservative audience. However, a question that Kelly asked regarding Trump’s views on women has become the center of conservative backlash following the debate.

Kelly quoted Trump on his previous characterizations of women as “fat pigs,” “dogs,” and “slobs.” Though Trump attempted to defuse the situation by joking that those insults were only against Rosie O’Donnell, Kelly would not be swayed. She pressed on with her question and asked how he would answer these charges to Hillary Clinton, who would presumably charge him as a prosecutor of the “War on Women” and declare him unfit to be president on those grounds alone.

Trump initially answered fairly enough for his political message: that he has no time to be politically correct and that the nation needs leaders who act rather than worry about every word they say. He then went on to personally attack Kelly, drawing the ire of the audience watching the debate.

The post-debate backlash was immediate. Many Republicans were quick to criticize the entire debate, claiming that it had been far too tough on the candidates and that the Democratic debates would not have such hard questions from debates hosted by the mainstream media. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck in particular scathingly criticized Fox News, claiming that the questions asked would hurt the Republicans in the general election. Undoubtedly, most of these criticisms were fueled by the apparent bias against Trump, beginning from Baier’s question at the start to Kelly’s question about his stance on women.

Most of the criticism comes down to Republicans’ fear that they have been abandoned by the one major television network they trust. Fox News has long been considered the Right Wing’s primary source for news, and will likely always be. However, longtime critics of the network praised the debate coverage, as they should. In presenting tough, targeted questions to the candidates, critics could not dismiss them as propaganda from the mainstream media.

The presidential debates have long been considered the most important component of the electoral process, and the moderators that mediate them should not pull their punches. If the Republican candidates are unable to answer controversial questions on a network favorable to the Right in front of a conservative audience, they will be very unlikely to maintain their poise when the time comes for a true challenge.

After the debate, Donald Trump continued his tirade on Twitter, preaching his victimhood in the Fox News hit job to whomever would listen. His most ardent supporters have filed a petition to remove Megyn Kelly from future debates out of pure spite. He has continued to utilize his singular brand of political incorrectness to describe the issues facing the nation.

While political correctness may be overrated, the continued popularity of a candidate with almost no substance is appalling. The backlash against Fox News from conservatives and particularly from supporters of Trump makes it clear that Fox News did its job right. It provided a forum for debate that presented all the candidates to voters and uncovered details about the candidates that have caused voters to re-evaluate their support.

Moreover, it exposed Donald Trump for who he is: an opportunist who will lend his support to whatever side benefits him most, not a leader who could fulfill his campaign slogan ripped directly from Ronald Reagan. He has been shown to be petulant and angry at anyone who dares challenge his talking points. He has demonstrated that he has no way of backing up his bold rhetoric with action, the same trait he decries in other politicians. At the same time, his lack of substance has served to contrast him with other, more suitable candidates.

Trump will still have plenty of support, but his road to the Republican nomination has been greatly damaged by his own words and actions.