Donald Trump already slammed the president, the Democratic Party and his Republican rivals in the race for the White House, as well as immigrants from Mexico, the Chinese and Sen. John McCain for being a prisoner of war.
To that fast-growing list he has now added Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly.
The Republican Party has long wrestled with the public perception that it is waging a “war on women” and has struggled to convince more women that it’s on their side.
By Sunday, as Trump made the rounds of the morning talk shows, he was insisting, “I cherish women.”
And yet for the outspoken, combative Trump, Kelly would seem to represent a type of person primed to get his goat.
At 44, she is recognized as successful, whip-smart, commanding and, as she demonstrated during Thursday’s GOP debate, a woman more than ready to stand up to the 69-year-old billionaire.
Trump’s position on women might be signaled by his proud ownership of beauty pageants and by his wisecrack on a TV show a decade ago that he would date his own daughter, a former teen model who was then 24, if only he weren’t her father.
Referring to her debate dust-up with Trump, Kelly said in an interview broadcast Sunday, “I’m sure he’ll get over that. We’ll be fine. And so will America.”
By Friday, Trump had seemingly decided to be less nice.
“She’s not very tough and not very sharp,” he said during a phone interview on CNN, then, referring to Kelly’s style of questioning him, he added, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
That startling outburst cost Trump an appearance before some 1,000 conservative activists at Saturday’s RedState Gathering in Atlanta when he was promptly disinvited from the event. The Republication Party asked him to “immediately clarify” his remark. Saturday evening, he and a campaign adviser parted company.
But Sunday, Trump remained defiant.
“I apologize when I’m wrong, but I haven’t been wrong,” he declared, saying only “a deviant” would interpret his remark as a gynecological swipe. He even denied having said it. “Do you think I’d make a stupid statement like that?”
While Kelly seemed to score a boost from the uproar, Trump was unbowed, even claiming credit for the debate’s huge audience. Without him on hand, “I say with all due modesty, you would have had 2 million people and not 24 million people.”
But despite a series of attacks by Trump that fortified his standing in the polls, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked if targeting Kelly, “who’s beloved by conservatives, beloved by Republican voters,” might end up hurting him.
“Her whole questioning was extremely unfair to me,” Trump replied. But he insisted, “I have nothing against Megyn Kelly.”