WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s turbulent relationship with Fox News showed signs of improvement Monday even as Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton seized on the billionaire businessman’s clash with the network to cast his Republican rivals as being bad for women.
Trump and Fox News have been in a bitter feud since last week’s presidential debate. While he leads recent polls, the former reality television star has drawn heated criticism from many in his own party for saying Fox moderator Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
The network’s chairman, Roger Ailes, reached out to Trump directly Monday, assuring him he’ll be “treated fairly” by the station, Trump tweeted Monday.
“Roger Ailes just called. He is a great guy & assures me that ‘Trump’ will be treated fairly on @FoxNews. His word is always good!” wrote Trump, whose unorthodox campaign is dominating the race and summertime polls.
In a statement Monday evening, Ailes described the conversation as “blunt but cordial” and said the air had been cleared.
“Donald Trump and I spoke today. We discussed our concerns, and I again expressed my confidence in Megyn Kelly,” Ailes said, describing Kelly as “a brilliant journalist” whom he supports “100 percent.”
Ailes added that he assured Trump “that we will continue to cover this campaign with fairness & balance.”
Addressing what she referred to the “dustup” for the first time on her show Monday night, Kelly defended what she described as a “tough but fair question” during the debate.
“We agree to disagree,” she said at the opening of her show, adding that she had decided not to respond to personal attacks Trump had lodged against her.
“Trump, who is the front-runner, will not apologize. And I certainly will not apologize for doing good journalism,” Kelly said. “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.”
Trump is scheduled to return to the network Tuesday, with appearances on two shows, “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity,” a Fox News spokeswoman said.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the debate, Clinton on Monday said Trump’s comments about Kelly should not overshadow the rest of the GOP field’s policies dealing with women.
“They brag about slashing women’s health care funding,” Clinton told reporters while campaigning in New Hampshire. “They say they would force women who have been raped to carry their rapist’s child, and we don’t hear any of them supporting raising the minimum wage, paid leave for new parents, access to quality child care, equal pay for women or anything else that will help to give women a chance to get ahead.”
Trump maintains he was treated unfairly in a series of tough questions, including one from Kelly about Trump’s history of negative statements about women. Trump later told CNN that Kelly, angry over his response, had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
He said Monday that he never intended to say anything inappropriate about Kelly and said the uproar over his criticism was “all fueled by the press.”
“This wasn’t meant to be much of an insult,” he told NBC’s “Today” show.
Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, a Kentucky senator, lashed out at Trump in a Monday conference call with reporters, describing him as “an empty suit here full of bravado, but not really full of anything meaningful for the country.”
“Unless someone points out the emperor has no clothes, he’ll continue to strut about and what we’ll end up with is a reality TV star as the nominee if we’re not careful,” Paul said.
Trump spent the weekend criticizing both Kelly and Fox News in interviews and online.
“It amazes me that other networks seem to treat me so much better than @FoxNews. I brought them the biggest ratings in history, & I get zip!” he tweeted.
JILL COLVIN AND STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press
Associated Press writer Jocelyn Noveck in New York and Kathleen Ronayne in Exeter, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.