Longtime Fox News president Roger Ailes fed Donald Trump debate questions, according to a lengthy new investigation from the New Yorker.
The piece, written by Jane Mayer and published on Monday in advance of their March issue, says that even Megyn Kelly’s famously tough question to Trump about his past remarks toward women were slipped to the billionaire in advance.
“A pair of Fox insiders and a source close to Trump believe that Ailes informed the Trump campaign about Kelly’s question,” Mayer said. “Two of those sources say that they know of the tipoff from a purported eyewitness. In addition, a former Trump campaign aide says that a Fox contact gave him advance notice of a different debate question, which asked the candidates whether they would support the Republican nominee, regardless of who won.”
Both instances were significant moments for Trump early in his race for the White House. The spat with Kelly helped cement his reputation as a shameless outsider and ignited a feud that made Kelly a household name but severely damaged her standing among the network’s diehard viewers. Trump’s defiant refusal to promise his eventual support for the eventual Republican nominee made him an instant establishment bête noire.
A rep for Fox News directed TheWrap to a denial they issued to the New Yorker. A rep for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ailes died in 2017 and with him likely went the full truth about the incident. The story, however, has percolated in media circles for years and has been denied in the past by several of those involved — including Kelly.
“For the record, my book ‘Settle for More’ does not suggest Trump had any debate Qs in advance, nor do I believe that he did,” she said in a 2016 tweet promoting her book.
“[Roger Ailes] had nothing to do with our debate preparation. Nothing! It was Wallace, Baier, me, Stirewalt and Fox News Bill Sammon, that’s it,” she reiterated on her own Fox News show around the same time. “We wrote our own questions. No one told me what to write because there’s another report out there that Rupert Murdoch got involved, which he didn’t.”
Kelly added that any idea to the contrary was “nonsense.”
The issue of feeding debate questions to candidates was a serious one during the 2016 campaign. Former DNC official Donna Brazile continues to take heat from left wing activists over her disclosure that she ferreted along sample town hall topics to Hillary Clinton’s campaign to help give her an edge over Bernie Sanders. She has called the decision a mistake and something she would regret “forever.”