If Donald Trump wasn't feuding with Megyn Kelly, he might have thanked her for promoting the same kind of bigotry and nativism he does, albeit in a less crude package, during last night's Fox News Republican debate.
In a telling exchange with Chris Christie, Kelly not-so-subtly suggested Muslims should be profiled. From the debate transcript (with my emphases):
KELLY: In December, two radical Muslims killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Neighbors of the terrorists said that they did not report the couple to law enforcement prior to the crime, because they were afraid that they would be accused of profiling.
Now, you have said that we should not profile. How do you square that with the San Bernardino case?
CHRISTIE: Well, because you can do it without profiling, Megyn, when you do it on the facts. What those facts knew was that these folks had weapons. They knew that they were talking about trying to take our country and attack it.
That’s not profiling, that’s law enforcement. And that’s the difference between somebody who knows how to do this and somebody who’s never done it before.
KELLY: They didn’t know they were going to attack the country.
CHRISTIE: They knew they were talking about the issues of attacking people, Megyn. They knew that.
KELLY: That’s not true. The neighbors said they saw men going in and out of the garage. They saw packages being delivered. They saw Muslims, and they did not think that was enough to call the cops. Do you?
Kelly could have posed the question by asking at what point, if ever, Christie thought the neighbors should have called the police. But she said tellingly and with implicit disapproval, “They saw Muslims, and they did not think that was enough to call the cops.”
More importantly, Kelly ought to know that profiling is the practice of law enforcement officials targeting individuals based on, in this case, religion or ethnicity. It is not being extra suspicious of your neighbors because they’re Muslim. That’s plain old prejudice.
Christie gave what I think is the correct answer (before he went on to blame President Obama and Hillary Clinton for a mistrust of police):
CHRISTIE: Listen, I think that what people should do is use their common sense. And the fact is, let law enforcement make those decisions.
…It’s not for them to make those decisions about whether or not something is legal or illegal, or profiling or not. You see something that’s suspicious, you call law enforcement and let law enforcement make those decisions.
That’s what should be done. That can be done. That can be done without profiling people. What that is, is just common sense.
A terrific article by Vox’s Max Fisher explains what’s so wrong with this exchange:
It is difficult to overstate the significance of a presidential debate moderator throwing off any air of moderating the debate rather than participating in it, and punishing a candidate because he has strayed from the conventional wisdom that all Muslims are threats until proven otherwise, that they should be targeted by police even in absence of evidence, and that this combination of Islam and political correctness puts communities across America at risk.
This is Trump’s message. Megyn Kelly, supposedly the one Fox News personality willing to stand up to him, went ahead and delivered his message for him, giving it the Fox News seal of approval, all without him even having to show up.
To be fair, I don’t think Kelly was intending to punish Christie so much as she thought she was challenging him. However, there’s no doubt that her mask of objectivity slipped and as anyone who saw her assure viewers that Santa is white knows, it was not for the first time.
Fisher is spot on when he points out that despite using the debate to undermine Trump, Fox’s larger, more persistent message throughout the debate “urged their audience to embrace exactly the sense of fear and desperation that so fuels Trump.”
In another telling moment highlighted by Fisher, Kelly said to Marco Rubio, “Within two years of getting elected you were co-sponsoring legislation to create a path to citizenship, in your words, amnesty. Haven’t you already proven that you cannot be trusted on this issue?”
Again, Kelly could have merely said, “Isn’t this a flip-flop?” Or, “How do you explain your contradicting positions?” Or even, “Why should someone who’s against a path to citizenship trust you?” But Kelly turned herself into a Trump-like scold instead.
Fox News and the GOP want to defeat Trump. They know that Trump threatens their power over the Republican party and threatened them as well. But they have spent so many years carefully creating this ecosystem of conspiracy theories and paranoia and ever-lurking threats, the very ecosystem that created Trump and allows him to take over the party, that they don’t know how to stop.
What you saw in this debate was that the GOP establishment and Fox News may very well want to take down Trump, but they are still, intentionally or not, his greatest ally, working tirelessly to fill Republican voters with just the right combination of fear and anger that will send them running to the man who is destroying the party.
Watch Kelly's Muslim profiling discussion with Christie above, from the January 28 debate.
h/t Media Matters.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
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