Former Fox News president Roger Ailes gave Donald Trump questions ahead of at least one Republican presidential debate hosted by the network in 2015..
The allegation comes from a deep dive into the network’s relationship to the Trump White House by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Mayer reports that Trump was given the heads-up that then-Fox anchor Megyn Kelly would ask him a question about his past disparaging of women with crude taunts. Trump quipped “Only Rosie O’Donnell” in response, which led to laughter from the live audience at the debate. It also led Trump, later, to make his infamous “she was bleeding from her wherever” comment about Kelly, which did not help his claim that he was not a misogynist.
The exchange was an early showcase of the unapologetic and combative style that made Trump popular with Republican voters, who flooded Fox with anti-Kelly emails and phone calls. Trump also milked the question to engage in a public feud with Kelly and the network, which also allowed him to burnish his image with voters as the anti-Republican-establishment candidate.
“A pair of Fox insiders and a source close to Trump believe that Ailes informed the Trump campaign about Kelly’s question. Two of those sources say that they know of the tipoff from a purported eyewitness.”
Mayer admits the claims are hard to evaluate, as Ailes is now dead and reporting at the time indicated that Trump’s feud with the network over Kelly was genuine and bitter. But Kelly, in a memoir published after she left Fox News, did write a passage suggesting that Trump might have gotten the question in advance.
Mayer also notes that during the primaries, commentator Donna Brazile was fired by CNN for leaking to Hillary Clinton a topic she would be asked about at a televised town hall. This lent fuel to Trump’s constant charges that CNN is biased against him. The irony, obviously, is that he says this when Fox News appears to have had more than a thumb on the scale for him. Instead it had both thumbs and the rest of Roger Ailes pressing on it for Trump.