In the wake of Donald Trump’s refusal to be part of Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate on the Fox News Channel, radio host Rush Limbaugh says the popular cable network is acting like a bride whose groom had just fled the church on their wedding day.
“Fox News was acting as if they had been jilted at the altar,” Limbaugh said on his national broadcast Wednesday.
“Donald Trump knows that by not showing up, he’s owning the entire event. Some guy not even present will end up owning the entire event. And the proof of that is Fox News last night.”
The network went into spin mode, with analysts discussing what a mistake it was for Trump to not participate in the debate. Limbaugh felt Fox’s reaction was astonishing.
“Don’t devote the rest of the night to how a candidate’s not showing up because of you, I mean the network,” he said. “It’s very hard for me to say here. I’m stunned watching this because everybody that’s involved has to know this is exactly one of the things Trump is hoping to achieve.”
The radio host portrayed Trump as an “outsider” who has never played by the rules of the game established by the news media.
And though the so-called rules of the media’s game suggest a candidate has to appear on their airwaves, Trump is not bowing down and paying homage to the powers that be.
“‘Screw the rules,’ he’s saying,” Limbaugh said of Trump. “‘Why should I willingly give them another shot at me? In a circumstance they control, why should I do it? What’s the sense in it for me? I’m leading. I’m running the pack here. Why in the world should I put myself in that circumstance? I’ve already seen what’s gonna happen.’”
In response to allegations that Trump is afraid of Megyn Kelly or the entire Fox News conglomerate, Limbaugh said, “That is not what this is. There isn’t any fear. What there is here, in my opinion, is a desire to control this and a purposeful decision to not put himself in a circumstance where other people want to make him look bad.”
He continued: “This is what it looks like when some guy stands up to rules in the game and says, ‘Screw yours. I’m looking out for me first. … You can say whatever you want but I am not dumb. I’m not gonna give you the gun and the bullet and stand still. You wanna hit me? Come get me. But I’m not gonna put myself in your line of fire.”
Limbaugh made no bones about portraying Fox News and the rest of the news media as the bad guys in this game of power:
“The media run this game. The media are never to blame for anything that goes wrong. They have total immunity where this all is concerned. The media in their minds and the way everybody plays the game, you have to go through the media to get where you want to go if you are in politics. You have to, and you have to bite your lip along the way. And if you don’t, then you have made a perpetual enemy of people as goes the saying, who buy ink by the barrel.”
Limbaugh channeled Trump’s likely thoughts on how the Republican front-runner is dealing with the princes of the airwaves, saying:
“Who says I have to go through you? Who says I have to look good according to what you say? Who says I have to get to the American people through you? Why can’t I just do my own event?
Buy my own microphone, my own camera, my own time, and talk to the American people without you. It seems to me a lot more efficient and more importantly, I control it. And I don’t have to deal with people maybe misrepresenting me or putting me in a bad light.”
Limbaugh added, “The other players in the game who have always abided by these rules are shocked and dismayed that somebody would mock the game this way.”
Trump said Tuesday the final straw was Fox News’ response to his threat to sit out the debate.
A network spokesperson mocked Trump to several media outlets, saying:
“We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings,” the statement read.
Trump fumed over those remarks at the Tuesday news conference, calling it a “wise-guy press release” that appeared to be “written by a child,” and he accused Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes of “playing games.”
“I didn’t like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games,” Trump said. “I don’t know what games Roger Ailes is playing or what’s wrong over there. But when they sent out that press release talking about it – I said what are these people, playing games? So most likely I won’t be doing the debate.”
The Trump campaign said that when Donald saw the statement, his reply was, “Bye bye.”
Trump isn’t the first top-tier presidential candidate to skip a debate. Ronald Reagan did not attend a Republican debate ahead of the 1980 Iowa caucuses, which he lost to George H.W. Bush. Reagan went on to the win the nomination and the presidency in a landslide.