Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's feud with Megyn Kelly escalated Friday night when he said the Fox News host had "blood coming out of her" at this week's Republican debate, resulting in swift condemnation from conservatives and some of his competitors in the Republican primary.
The outspoken billionaire criticized Kelly for her line of questioning during Thursday night’s televised GOP presidential debate, saying her questions were "ridiculous" and "off-base."
Advertisement - story continues below
"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes," Trump told CNN's Don Lemon on Friday night. "Blood coming out of her wherever."
RedState.com editor Erick Erickson reacted to Trump's statement by disinviting the GOP front-runner from the RedState Gathering, a conservative event featuring GOP presidential hopefuls this weekend in Atlanta. Trump was scheduled to give the keynote speech Saturday night, reported the Washington Post.
"As much as I do personally like Donald Trump, his comment about Megyn Kelly on CNN is a bridge too far for me," said Erickson. "His comment was inappropriate. It is unfortunate to have to disinvite him. But I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal. It just was wrong."
Advertisement - story continues below
Attendees of the conference found themselves grappling with the sudden Trump snub.
"It's wrong to exclude him and insult him on what people interpret he said as opposed to what he said," said Jim Pemberton.
"He was saying that Megyn was seeing blood, in her eyes. As far as 'blood coming out all over,' the first thing I think of is not a woman's menstrual cycle. I think of Jesus Christ, thorns on his head, nail holes in his hands, stigmata," he told the Washington Post.
"It was really inappropriate to attack Megyn Kelly," said Richard Fonte, 70, an activist who supports Scott Walker. "That and the fact that he's taking the position that he might run as a third party — that would automatically elect Hillary Clinton."
Trump fights back
Advertisement - story continues below
Trump attempted to clarify the remark on Twitter and also released a statement claiming he said “‘blood coming out of her eyes and whatever,’ meaning nose.”
He added: “Only a deviant would think anything else.”
He also tweeted, “So many ‘politically correct’ fools in our country. We have to all get back to work and stop wasting time and energy on nonsense!”
In his statement, Trump pointed out the hypocrisy in Erickson’s decision to disinvite him as a speaker at the RedState Gathering. "By the way, the guy (Erick Erickson) who made the decision about RedState called Supreme Court Justice David Souter a 'goat [expletive] child molester’ and First Lady Michelle Obama a 'Marxist Harpy.’ He was forced to make a humbling apology."
Advertisement - story continues below
Trump also said that the decision to disinvite him stemmed from the fact that he is "an outsider and does not fit [Erickson’s] agenda," additionally stating, "[N]ot only is Erick a total loser, he has a history of supporting establishment losers in failed campaigns so it is an honor to be uninvited from his event."
When asked who was invited to fill Trump’s speaking slot, Erickson replied, "I’ve invited Megyn Kelly."
Undaunted by the slap in the face, Trump’s press statement noted, "Many of the 900 people that wanted to hear Mr. Trump speak tonight have been calling and emailing – they are very angry at Erickson and the others that are trying to be so politically correct. To them Mr. Trump says, 'We will catch you at another time soon.’"
Trump also sent out a defiant tweet: "[email protected] I miss you all, and thanks for all of your support. Political correctness is killing our country. 'weakness.'"
A Trump spokesman added in a quote to Daily Mail Online on Saturday, "For all of the people who were looking forward to Mr. Trump coming, we will miss you. Blame Erick Erickson, your weak and pathetic leader. We'll now be doing another campaign stop at another location."
GOP rivals react to Kelly remarks
As WND reported, Rush Limbaugh said he predicted the Fox News moderators would employ attack-dog tactics against Trump.
“Everybody should have known this was gonna happen,” he said. “This is presidential politics, and Republican candidates are where media people score their points. It’s where they build their careers. It’s where they establish their credentials.”
The conservative talk-radio giant saw another motivation for the moderators’ attack-dog tactics.
He said GOP bigwigs ordered Fox to take out Trump.
On Friday, Limbaugh began by telling listeners how, on the day of Thursday’s debate, he had learned “that big-time Republican donors had ordered to take out Donald Trump in the debate last night.”
“We all made a mistake,” he explained. “We assumed that the orders went out to the candidates. But the candidates did not make one move toward taking Donald Trump out. The broadcast network did; the candidates didn’t.”
However, several GOP competitors in the Republican field are now jumping on the bandwagon to criticize Trump regarding his remarks on Megyn Kelly, as reported by The Hill.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took to Twitter on Saturday morning to defend Kelly, writing that "there’s no excuse for Trump’s comments."
"@MegynKelly is a tough interview," Walker added. "Being POTUS is tougher. @GOP candidates & media need to get back to how we’re going to turn U.S. around."
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Trump’s repeated gaffes disqualify him from the 2016 race.
"Donald Trump has proven once again that he doesn’t have the temperament to hold the nation’s highest office," Perry said in a statement. "Attacking veterans, Hispanics and women demonstrates a serious lack of character and basic decency, and his comments distract from the serious issues facing our country."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. , called on Trump to drop his campaign, saying he is unfit for the Oval Office.
"Enough already with Mr. Trump," Graham said in a statement. "As a party, we are better to risk losing without Donald Trump that trying to win with him. … Due to Donald Trump’s unrelenting and offensive attack on Megyn Kelly and others, we are at a crossroads with Mr. Trump. … These are statements not worthy of the office he is seeking nor consistent with the leadership we should expect from a Commander-in-Chief in these dangerous times."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Saturday expressed disbelief with Trump’s choice of words describing Kelly’s debate performance.
"Come on – give me a break," Bush said in an appearance at Atlanta’s RedState Gathering. "What Donald Trump said is wrong. What he said does not win elections. Worse yet, it is not something that brings people together. Mr. Trump should apologize."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, meanwhile, used Trump’s battle with Kelly as a means of highlighting how inclusive his own campaign is.
"You don’t tear people down just because they disagree with you or stand up to you or question you," Kasich said in a statement. "I deliberately seek out different views in my life and work, and I am grateful for the strong women in my family, in my office, in my cabinet and on my campaign because they improve everything they touch."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Saturday said Trump’s views are not reflective of the overall GOP message.
"The Republican Party is not engaged in a war on women," he told reporters after addressing the RedState Gathering in Atlanta.
Carly Fiorina, the only female in the Republican 2016 race, also rejected Trump’s comments on Friday evening.
"Mr. Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse," she tweeted. "I stand with @MegynKelly."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, defended Kelly as a "terrific journalist" Saturday afternoon but criticized the media for quizzing him about her feud with Trump.
"Every Republican candidate should treat everyone with respect," he told reporters after his own RedState Gathering appearance in Atlanta, adding, "I’m not going to engage in the back-and-forth on personalities. I get that’s what the media loves."
Top adviser leaves
Meanwhile, Trump has lost one of his top political strategists. CNN reported Roger Stone is no longer working for Trump, though reports are conflicted as to whether Stone’s departure was a firing or a resignation.
On Saturday, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign said, "Mr. Trump fired Roger Stone last night. We have a tremendously successful campaign and Roger wanted to use the campaign for his own personal publicity. He has had a number of articles about him recently and Mr. Trump wants to keep the focus of the campaign on how to make America great again."
But CNN reported Stone contradicted that version of events by providing his resignation letter.
"Unfortunately, the current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message," the document says. "With this current direction of the candidacy, I no longer can remain involved in your campaign. … I care about you as a friend and wish you well. Be assured I will continue to be vocal and active in the national debate to ensure our nation does not again turn to the failed and distrusted Bush/Clinton families."
Stone later added in a tweet, "Sorry @realDonaldTrump didn’t fire me – I fired Trump. Disagree with diversion to food fight with @megynkelly away core issue messages."
Trump the bully?
In an opinion piece in The Hill, columnist Brent Budowsky defends Megyn Kelly as "one of the most professional, fair and talented journalists on television" who "who asked fair questions based on facts using accurate quotes that Trump did not contest" during the debate.
"Trump responded to Kelly with barely veiled threats and low-end bullying tactics," wrote Budowsky, "followed after the debate by his declaring a ridiculous Twitter war against Kelly filled with invective and more implied threats." He added, "There is an old saying that if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen, and if Trump cannot handle tough but fair questions by Kelly in a presidential debate without responding with angry tirades and threatening insults, he should find a new line of work besides presidential politics."
Budowsky also asks, "If Trump becomes so emotional, angry and bullying after debate questions from Kelly, can you imagine what will happen if he ever has to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin?"
Others also defended Kelly. Mike Huckabee called her one of the "most beloved people in the building' at Fox, and added, "She is also one of those people you don’t tangle with."
He described her as a tough, hands-on journalist, who is passionate about her job. "There's not a more professional, a more savvy and more brilliant person in television today than Megyn Kelly. … It doesn't matter who you are, she's gonna try to get to the story," he added. "And I respect her for that. And she has pressed me hard on many things. That's fine. That's what she's supposed to do. And that's why she is a successful journalist. She deserves it. She's earned it."
Trump loses zero support
Despite the back-and-forth rhetoric, it seems "Teflon Trump" has lost none of his popular support.
A Wall Street Journal report suggests that despite critics’ opinions predicting Trump’s poll numbers would fall, two early – though unscientific – polls predict that may be wrong.
"Time Magazine found that Mr. Trump took 47% of nearly 55,000 votes. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) of Florida was in second place with just 10%. The Drudge Report’s poll found more than half of nearly 362,000 voters favored Mr. Trump, well above everyone else."
Trump’s bulletproof popularity frankly baffles his detractors.
The Hill’s Niall Stanage notes, "At every step of his unlikely presidential campaign, the businessman’s detractors have predicted his downfall. Controversies created by his own words, at Thursday night’s GOP debate in Cleveland and elsewhere, have routinely brought out doomsayers. Yet none of it has stuck to him or dragged him down to Earth in the polls. Comments that would likely have been fatal for other candidates – like denigrating the war record of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in Vietnam – have had virtually no negative effect."
Nothing that no other candidate could ever get away with what Trump has said, Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, suggested Trump’s secret is that he has no secrets. He has been a colorful, often-outrageous and exceedingly public figure for decades.
Stanage adds, "Strategists in both parties are scratching their heads and wondering how long it all can last."