Trump media feud moves from Megyn Kelly to ‘Morning Joe’

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Donald Trump’s media feuds have moved from Fox News’s Megyn Kelly to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The Republican presidential nominee’s fights with television personalities and reporters have been a consistent theme of his campaign, and one that has been a way to rally voters to his side.

{mosads}Trump can still draw roars from a crowd by ripping the press, but political strategists say the billionaire’s feuds are limiting his efforts to build out his brand as he seeks to make a comeback in polls and bring in new supporters.

Much of Trump’s base watches him on Fox News, but Jennefer Witter, chief executive officer for the New York-based public-relations firm the Boreland Group, said he’ll have a hard time attracting undecided voters without appearing on other channels and shows.

“There simply are not enough voters within that category to get him into the Oval Office,” said Witter. “He needs independents and disaffected Democrats to build his numbers.”

While Trump battled with members of the media during the presidential primaries, he also had a strategy of appearing everywhere and doing countless interviews. That has now changed.

Trump has appeared on Fox News and Fox Business 18 times in August — and on all other networks twice.

Trump was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on Thursday, his first appearance on CNN since June 13. He also did a phone interview this month with CNBC.

Once a regular guest on “Morning Joe,” the real estate mogul has now gone 100 days without an appearance on the program.

The fighting between Trump and the widely watched hosts has also become intensely personal. On Monday, Trump tweeted that he would “tell the real story” of Scarborough and “his very insecure long-time girlfriend” Brzezinski. In another tweet, he called Brzezinski “a neurotic and not very bright mess!”

Scarborough fired back: “Neurotic and not very bright? Look in the mirror.”

Trump hasn’t been on CBS since July 17, when he introduced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his presidential running mate on “60 Minutes.”

He was last on NBC on July 24 for an interview with Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” and he appeared on ABC one week later for an interview with George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.”

Experts who spoke to The Hill were almost unanimous in saying that it would be difficult for Trump to broaden his audience without appearing on more networks.

According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Trump currently trails Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by 6 points nationally and in every battleground state by varying margins.

“Trump’s recent media strategy is odd, to say the least,” said Brian Hart, founder of Flackable, a national public-relations agency based in Wyomissing, Pa.

Hart noted that Clinton has her own press problems.

She hasn’t held a formal press conference since Dec. 4, 2015, and has come under increasing criticism from the media for avoiding questions.

“It’s left the door wide open for the Trump campaign, but instead of dominating the cable news circuit, as he did so effectively during the primaries, Trump has allowed his surrogates and members of his campaign to replace him on those networks,” Hart said.

Kelly was the first personality in the media with whom Trump really fought during the primaries, and the battle appeared to pay off for him — he won headlines and emerged as an anti-establishment force within the Republican Party.

He, Kelly and Fox have for the most part put their ill feelings aside, though a few weeks ago he told Kelly to “get your facts straight” on his Islamic State in Iraq and Syria strategy.

Trump’s attacks on the media have gone well beyond the broadcast networks since he began his unorthodox campaign more than 14 months ago. He’s also revoked the press credentials of The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and Politico. 

Once a ubiquitous presence on CNN, Trump now rarely appears on the network. “Don Lemon is a lightweight — dumb as a rock,” Trump tweeted on Aug. 10 of the CNN host.

Witter said Trump should cast a broader net and “reach out to outlets that he has banned such as The Washington Post; to those with which he has disagreements, such as MSNBC; and to the black and Latino media — TV One and Telemundo among many — that he has thus far shunned.”

Trump was formerly a regular on “The Howard Stern Show,” where he discussed a number of topics you wouldn’t expect a presidential candidate to talk about.

Nonetheless, some observers think it wouldn’t be crazy for Trump to go back on Stern.

“I think it would be wise for Trump to go back and appear on ‘The Tonight Show’ and ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ and other non-predictable broadcast outlets,” said Chad Wilkinson, a former cable news executive producer and current CEO of Philadelphia-based Liberty Media Strategies.

Clinton appeared on Kimmel’s show this week and made fun of Trump’s questions about her health. 

“I also think Trump should appear on ‘The Howard Stern Show.’ Howard is a great interviewer and the two have always had great chemistry on the air,” Wilkinson said.

Jeff McCall, a professor of media studies at Depauw University, agrees there’s an opportunity for Trump to draw a sharp contrast with Clinton, who also has issues engaging with the press as a whole. 

“If Trump were to more broadly engage the broader media landscape, he can provide a clear contrast to Hillary Clinton, who is clearly playing a ‘run out the clock’ strategy with regard to the press,” McCall said.

“Trump should speak to any and all news outlets and mention during each of those interviews that he is there to speak to the electorate while Hillary ducks the tough questioning and won’t even hold a press conference.”

But a more exposed Trump, McCall said, only works if he stays on the narrative the campaign wishes to articulate.  

“If he expands his media range, but has flimsy or off-target messages, he will just contribute to the perception that his messaging and campaign are rather untethered,” he said.

Tags CNN Donald Trump Fox News Hillary Clinton Mike Pence MSNBC

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