Fox News Sunday got off to a dramatic start with a well-edited and clearly reported piece on the wounding and capture of an ISIS terrorist last week in Belgium.
Then came a timely segment on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court and his chances of confirmation in an obstructionist Senate ruled by addled Republicans.
Next, host Chris Wallace interviewed Ohio Governor John Kasich, third among three Republicans still trying for that party’s presidential nomination. Their give-and-take was lively and entertaining.
But something seemed askew, not quite right.
Then you remembered: Fox News often betrays its agenda not only with what it shows but also by what it avoids. And then you realized that, except for a few passing mentions, this flagship one-hour show virtually ignored Donald Trump—the leading Republican candidate and the biggest story in the nation—until near the end.
And even then the big issue was about the “Stop Trump” movement and is it too late? Fox didn’t have Mr. Trump in the studio, or on a remote camera or even on the telephone, the way George Stephanopoulos did on ABC’s This Week.
Nor did Fox show new video of an anti-Trump protester being beaten and (this time) stomped in Arizona on Saturday. (Most other shows ran it). They didn’t quote Mr. Trump predicting riots at the Cleveland convention if he doesn’t get the nomination. (The other shows did).
When they got around to discussing him, Mr. Wallace dismissed the ad hoc, anti-Trump effort of the establishment Republicans as “a bunch of fat cats having dinner at some club.”
Bob Woodward, a member of Mr. Wallace’s analytical panel, said of Mr. Trump: “He never quits. He’s the heavy in this. There’s something that he’s brought forth in the populace that those of us who try to understand this don’t understand.”
‘He’d need 70 percent of the white vote. It would destroy the Republican party by making it the party of white people.’
OK, let’s explain it to Mr. Woodward: Millions of poorly-educated, angry white men enjoy Mr. Trump’s hostility toward immigrants, his coarseness toward women and his belittling of opponents.
These are the pissed-off guys who drive around in their pickup trucks, their dashboard radios tuned to right-wing false prophets like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin who tell their “conservatives” what to think and how to vote and who to hate.
Getting by financially but not sharing much of the economic recovery, they go from lousy job to lousy job—sometimes holding two at a time, if they’re lucky. Mr. Woodward probably doesn’t meet them much when he’s so busy leveraging cynical, big-shot politicians against each another for yet another tedious book.
Finally, Fox showed a motion picture of Mr. Trump, surrounded by his hard-faced bodyguards. The increasingly sour George Will said Mr. Trump “stylistically” resembles the racist demagogue George Wallace, the third-party candidate of 1968.
Mr. Wallace, Mr. Will remembered, “famously said ‘There’s too much dignity in our politics. We have to have more meanness.’”
“He’s appealing entirely to white people,” Mr. Will noticed of Mr. Trump. “He’d need 70 percent of the white vote. It would destroy the Republican party by making it the party of white people.”
Mr. Will spoke with disdain of “Vichy Republicans who are coming to terms as collaborators with the takeover of the party.”
Then came this exchange with the host.
WALLACE: “And do you see a third party under these circumstances?”
WALLCE (in jest): “Are you going to lead the ticket?”
WILL: “No, but I would vote for it.”
WALLACE: “You would vote for it?”
WALLACE: “All right. Wow! I think we made some news ourselves.”
To be fair (and balanced), we must acknowledge that glancing references to Mr. Trump were made earlier in the show. When Mr. Wallace questioned Mr. Kasich, the governor referred to Mr. Trump’s convention riot warning.
“What kind of talk is that?” Mr. Kasich said.
And during the conversation over the nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Mr. Will mused about “Mr. Trump, whose qualifications for so doing are somewhat foggy… If Trump is the President-elect, I don’t know how you guess who he might want to put on the court.”
(Hint to Mr. Will: Think small. Think lowest common denominator. Think reality TV. Think Judge Judy.)
The show eschewed the feud between Mr. Trump and Megyn Kelly, Fox’s hot shot news actress who stung Mr. Trump last summer with a debate question about his sexism and misogyny.
Her bosses got around to defending her Saturday by making Mr. Trump sound creepy.
In an unsigned release, the network run by Roger Ailes declared: “Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her is beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate… Megyn is an exemplary journalist… We are proud of her phenomenal work and continue to fully support her throughout every day of Trump’s endless barrage of crude and sexist verbal assaults… It’s especially deplorable for her to be repeatedly abused just for doing her job.”
Best of the rest:
THIS WEEK If you needed a Trump fix Sunday, the ABC show had the exclusive: a mixed blessing as Mr. Trump shouted into a telephone and overwhelmed attempts by the host to ask questions.
As Mr. Trump spoke, the screen at first showed scenes of anger and violence at his rallies. He rambled on in great gusts of words and finally Mr. Stephanopoulos forced a question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: “You can’t be excusing the kicking and punching there! So you’re not going to condemn the protester who kicked and punched that person?”
TRUMP (wearily, with condescension): “We don’t condone violence. And I say it. And we have very little violence.”
Mr. Trump went on to say the protestors “are professional agitators,” he said, not explaining the difference between them and amateur agitators. (What would the NCAA say?)
When Mr. Stephanopoulos suggested Mr. Trump was more upset by the protesters than by the violent response to these protesters, Mr. Trump replied: “I am very—uh—I wouldn’t use the word ‘upset.'”
“I think it’s very unfair that these—really, in many cases—professional and, in many cases, sick protestors, can put cars in a road blocking thousands of great Americans from coming to a speech and nobody says anything about that. But they’ll say something about—whatever.”
The host reminded Mr. Trump “We showed that blockade right at the top of the broadcast.”
Given every chance to take back his reckless riot rhetoric, Mr. Trump said: “I don’t know what’s gonna happen… But I will say this: You’re gonna have a lot of very unhappy people.”
The conversation lasted 14 minutes. Regarding his remark about Mitt Romney—“You sure he’s a Mormon?”—Mr. Trump said it was only a light-hearted jest because, he said, Mormons are known to be smart and Mr. Trump has called Mr. Romney not smart, albeit handsome.
Mr. Trump, who often speaks sweepingly of religious groups he likes and dislikes (one of his spats was with the Pope, fer Chrissakes) said he’d make a deal in the Middle East that “would be in Israel’s interest.”
“I don’t know one Jewish person that doesn’t want to have a deal,” said Mr. Trump, who wrote the book The Art of the Deal. “A good deal. A proper deal. But a really good deal.” (No, he did not say “such a deal.” Thank God. Any god.)
Later, Reince Priebus, the national chairman of the Republican Party, stopped by and was reminded that he once said a contested convention was “an extreme hypothetical.” Does he still feel that way?
“Ah, ha-ha, uh, probably not still the case,” he said with a stiff smile. He also said it would be better if Mr. Trump’s campaign staff stopped wading into crowd of protestors and putting their hands on protesters and throwing them around.
Explaining how the party might deny Mr. Trump the nomination if he doesn’t have more than 50 percent of the delegates, Mr. Priebus said: “Well, plurality is a minority and a minority doesn’t choose for the majority.”
The panel was lively, with Sara Fagen expressing horror at Mr. Trump’s words.
“He should never speak of riots,” she said. Also at the table was Roland Martin, who said Mr. Trump expresses a desire “to be thug-in-chief” and that “This crises of conscience among conservatives is just stunning.”
E.J. Dionne added that “there is great reason now for the Republicans to be petrified of a Trump nomination because they know `We could lose everything with this guy.’” Rich Lowry—who started the anti-Trump effort in National Review—said Mr. Kasich is “selfish and delusional” to stay in the race.
FACE THE NATION This CBS show featured Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina who is becoming increasingly verbose and blunt.
He told host John Dickerson that Mr. Trump has a four-legged stool instead of a three-legged stool “because he’s ‘The Donald.’ It’s got to be bigger.” (Mr. Graham then cleared his throat in a meaningful way.)
He said Mr. Trump’s four stool legs were “populism, xenophobia, race-baiting and religious liberty.”
And then he started talkin’ tough.
“Nobody’s going to listen to you about your economic plan or your ability to defend the nation if you’re going to deport their grandmother,” Mr. Graham said. “We’re a divided party. We’ve got a lot of angry people in our base.”
Predicting a Trump candidacy would “destroy the party for decades,” Mr. Graham added: “I’d rather lose without Trump than try to win with him. And if he wants to leave the party—leave!” He called Mr. Trump “an interloper and a demagogue of the greatest proportion.”
Mr. Graham then openly pled with Mr. Kasich to leave the race so a Cruz-Kasich alliance could confront Mr. Trump. “John,” he said, “if I thought you could win, I’d be right behind you.”
With Senator Graham now backing Senator Cruz, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post urged everyone to “pause and appreciate the pigs-flying moment.”
RELIABLE SOURCES Brian Stelter gets good guests for his CNN show. One Sunday was Jeff Greenfield, who’s seen much of it, if not it all. He explained the flaw in the media fixation with objectivity that sometimes leads to false equivalence. “There are times when even an objective press has to say ‘This is true, this is false.’”
Later, Mr. Greenfield spoke of Mr. Trump’s supporters.
“’We don’t care what you say,’” he said of them. “’If Trump says it, it’s true.’ That’s a real problem. I don’t know how we deal with that.”
Another get was Jorge Ramos of Univision who has become a strong and steady voice for Latin Americans in the United States. He isn’t going by the false balance of “telling both sides.”
“On certain occasions you have to take a stand,” he said, on a candidate “who promotes hate and division.” He said he’s waiting for the interview promised to him by Mr. Trump.
“I’m ready,” he said.
“Can you be fair?” asked Mr. Stelter.
“I think so,” Mr. Ramos said.
In remarks regarding racism, Mr. Ramos said: “I don’t know what’s in his heart, but I do know what comes out of his mouth.”
MEET THE PRESS One of Chuck Todd’s good guests on NBC was Steve Schmidt, the Republican operative who usually analyzes things with cold realism but speaks dramatically and with passion.
“For a lot of Republican leaders, they will come to a moment where it’s country over party,” he said. “Anybody but Trump.”
Mr. Schmidt called Mr. Trump “an asymmetrical candidate. He is so unconventional. We’ve never seen anything like it… trust has collapsed… all of it accumulating to this moment in time when someone has come forward with profound communication skills, offering easy answers.”
When the chatter segment touched on Fox News, Molly Ball (did she ever play volleyball?) of The Atlantic said “It’s interesting that Trump keeps picking these fights with the most prominent organ of journalism on the right.”
Ms. Ball said Mr. Trump is “stoking a certain base that wants that white, male primacy back.”
Finally, she warned: “Donald Trump doesn’t go away if there’s some kind of weird contested convention and they take it away from him.”
STATE OF THE UNION Dana Bash subbed for Jake Tapper on CNN. One of her panelists was right-winger S.E. Cupp who said “Trump is meeting that anger with more anger.” Mr. Kasich showed up here as well to recite his talking points. “We’re going to an open, multi-ballot convention,” he said. “That’s where we’re headed.”
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, one of several A-listers making the rounds Sunday, showed up here to run down the President’s Supreme Court nominee. Mr. McConnell danced around the blind quote in The New York Times that reported Mr. McConnell having said that endangered Republican Senators in purple states could drop Mr. Trump “like a hot rock” if his candidacy drags down the lower levels of the ticket as the election approaches.
MEDIA BUZZ A tepid show improved with an appearance by Ashley Parker of The New York Times who described Trump rallies as “a mosh pit where tensions are high on both sides.” She said demonstrators disturbing the rallies are showing “Sort of their form of social protest.” Alex Conant (from Marco’s Rubio’s refugees) got into a tiff with Tamara Holder when Mr. Conant referred to “hacking and partisanship on both sides.” She broke in to ask “Where is the hacking on the left?” Mr. Conant, barely stifling a sneer, replied: “I appreciate the interruption and I will answer your question regardless.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.