Fox News has an interesting relationship with GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. The gang on the morning show, Fox & Friends, are your typical Trump fans, Steve Doocy in particular. There’s nothing Trump can do, nothing he can say, that they won’t defend. At the other end of the day, though, Megyn Kelly isn’t particularly on the bandwagon. Her relationship with the candidate has had its ups and downs, but the best word to describe it is probably “frosty.”
On Monday evening Kelly made her position quite clear about the Trump tax return that showed him taking a loss of almost a billion dollars in 1995. Kelly understands that what he did was perfectly legal. She’s just not sure that it was right, and she let Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn know it.
Before the discussion starts, Kelly plays a news report about Trump’s tax returns that ends with the reporter noting, in true Fox News fashion, that The New York Times, the paper that broke the story of the tax return, has also had years in which it paid no taxes. But once again that’s just an effort to muddy the waters by comparing Trump’s loss on his personal taxes with the taxes paid by a business. As CNBC commentator Ron Insana notes, Trump’s reduction of his personal taxes by declaring a huge loss “does absolutely nothing for any business he may be running.” Insana goes on to say that rather than protecting his investors and shareholders, Trump’s declared loss was probably done at their expense. And that’s what has Megyn Kelly upset.
Kelly starts by ceding the point that what Trump did was perfectly legal. “I don’t know anybody who wants to pay more in taxes than they actually owe,” Kelly observes. Then she frames the conversation by posing the questions many people are asking:
“A, what kind of brilliant businessman loses $900 plus million in a year. And B, what about all the small contractors and stockholders who got completely screwed the year that he lost all that money. And he took advantage of it for years thereafter by not paying any taxes, but they were left hung out to dry.”
Epshteyn immediately puts the machine on spin cycle. He explains that the loss Trump declared on his 1995 return was accumulated over a period of years. Kelly is unimpressed. “He took the loss in one year,” she says, deadpan.
Then Epshteyn tries to use the same tactic used by the Fox reporter in the lead-in segment, by comparing Trump’s declared loss to the loss claimed by General Motors on their taxes in 2009. And again Kelly isn’t buying the argument. She tells Epshteyn:
“OK, but GM is not running for president as a brilliant businessman.”
Having run head-on into a brick wall, Epshteyn regroups and goes to the “but everybody does it” defense. Unfortunately for him, Boris Epshteyn is like all the other Trump surrogates — he’s just not that bright. And he’s no match for Megyn Kelly, who brilliantly counter-punches at everything he says. After a couple of minutes of Epshteyn’s failure to answer her questions, Kelly turns to her other guest, Richard Fowler.
When Fowler speculates that Trump may have paid taxes at a rate as low as five percent, while his employees were paying much higher rates, Epshteyn chides him for guessing what the candidate’s tax rate may be. And he may have wished he had kept quiet. Kelly immediately shoots him down.
“We don’t know how much Trump paid because he won’t release his taxes, Boris!” Kelly shouts.
If Boris Epshteyn thought he was coming into friendly territory because he was visiting Fox News, he soon got a rude awakening. I’m not quite ready to put Megyn Kelly in the same category as Shepard Smith as a Fox employee with a good deal of integrity, but discussions like this show that when she wants to be, she is much better than the average Fox talking head. And she is no fan of Donald Trump — we have to give her points for that.
Here’s video of the conversation, via Fox News: