Donald Trump on Friday slammed Fox News for his treatment during the Republican presidential debate on Thursday, accusing moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace of "having an agenda" and even attacking the pollster who oversaw a focus group of Americans watching the debate on the cable network.
"I am very disappointed in Fox News," the candidate told Don Lemon on CNN. "I think they had an agenda.
"I don't have a lot of respect for Megyn Kelly, she came out, reading her script, trying to be tough and sharp," Trump added. "When you meet her you realize she is not very tough or very sharp. She is zippo."
When asked further about Kelly, who asked the billionaire developer about his previously disparaging comments about women, Trump said: "I just don't respect her as a journalist. I don't think she is very good. I think she is highly overrated.
"She gets out," he continued. "Starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever — but in my opinion, she was off base."
Trump discussed how Fox took a beating Friday for its approach on social media.
"It has been a brutal day. In one way, a great day for Fox. In another day, in the Twittersphere, very bad.
"She has been very badly criticized," Trump said of Kelly. "She is a lightweight. I couldn't care less about her."
Acknowledging, however, that "she is somebody who's pretty tough," Trump added that Kelly "is just somebody I didn't have a lot of respect for. I don't think she has major talent. I don't think she has much talent at all."
Turning to Wallace, Trump said he knew his father, "the great Mike Wallace" of CBS News.
"In fact he did me on '60 minutes.' He was phenomenal. But he was a friend of mine. A tough cookie. He was great.
"And, suddenly, there is only a tiny fraction of Mike," Trump said of the Fox moderator.
"Believe me, there is a big difference between Mike Wallace and Chris Wallace. Blood pouring out of his eyes."
Trump then turned his attention to Baier, who led the debate by asking the candidates to pledge — via a show of hands — whether they would not back the ultimate Republican nominee or mount an independent challenge.
The businessman was the only debater to raise his hand.
"I lost all respect for Bret Baier," Trump said. "I didn't have any respect for him anymore, the way he handled the situation."
He also attacked pollster Frank Luntz, who was contracted by Fox to manage a focus group of citizens watching the debate. Lemon played a clip in which most of the Americans attacked Trump's performance.
"Frank Luntz … is a dunce, as far as I am concerned," Trump said. "This guy is major loser."
He said that Luntz sought out Trump — first, "for an airplane ride" — and then "to hire his firm to do focus studies or something. Trump said he did fly Luntz on his private jet.
"I don't need focus studies," he told Lemon. "I told him: 'Frank, I don't need focus studies. I have no interest.'
"After I said that, he did all the negative focus studies on me. It can't be right. If you look at polling and all of the polling that has gone on — having to do with the debate — most people think I won.
"Every time I see a poll, it is negative," he said of Luntz's work. "The guy is a lightweight.
"Maybe he uses his little tiny power at Fox in order to get work. I don't know."
Trump said that he is "proud" that 24 million viewers tuned in to the debate, a new record for any cable program, "but I thought it was unfair" the way he was treated.
"In one way, I am proud of it. Everybody agrees, everybody, that if Trump wasn't on the show, they would do 2 million, maybe 3 million.
"I don't even think they would do that much," he said. "Here, they set a record."
Trump wouldn't rule out withdrawing from another forum hosted by Fox.
The Fox Business Channel is scheduled to hold a debate
in November, while contests in January and March will be hosted by the news operation.
"I don't know," Trump said in response to Lemon's question. "I would have to see. I might not, to be honest. They're folks were not good. I didn't think they were fair."
In addition, Trump refused to say whether he would not back the eventual candidate, telling Lemon that "I don't choose to."
"What difference is it to you?" he asked. "I don't choose to do so. I will probably at some point do that. But right now, I am only looking forward to one thing: that is running as a Republican and winning as a Republican.
"I am leading as a Republican," he added. "Obviously, it is better to run as a Republican. That's what my choice is."
A factor, however, is "if I am treated fairly and with respect," by the Republican establishment. "I will, and even if I don't get it, I would, most likely, go ahead and not do that," Trump said.
"But if, on the other hand, I am not, I very well might. Now at some point, I may switch over and make everybody happy — and I would be happy also."
He did praise Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus for treating him "very nicely."
"That's what I want. I want a level playing field. And if I get a level playing field — fairness — then it's highly unlikely that I … would go with a third party."
When asked about why he called candidate Jeb Bush a "gentleman" after the former Florida governor denied personally attacking Trump for his position on invading Iraq, Trump charged to Lemon: "Why are you bringing that up? He was very nice. He denied it.
"He talked about tone. He said Trump's tone is very tough. It is very strong. I said, 'You don't understand, we have to have a tough tone.'"
In assessing his debate performance overall, Trump said that he was in the presidential race to stay.
"I did really well with horrible, nasty, stupid questions. I did really well," he told Lemon.
"I am certainly not riding into the sunset.
"I am leading in every poll. You don't ride off into the sunset when you are leading."
The CNN anchor also pressed Trump about the telephone call he received
from former President Bill Clinton in late May before his June 16 announcement. When asked about the content of the call, Trump initially replied: "Well, that's none of your business."
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He did say, however, that his decision to seek the GOP nomination was already made up and only that Clinton did not encourage him to run and that the former president called because "I think he was upset. We really didn't discuss it.
"I will say that my mind, when we spoke, was already fully made up. In other words, I was already going to run. When he called, my mind was totally made up. I was already running.
"Nothing big," Trump added. "I had known them over the years. I hadn't spoken to them in a long time. My mind was totally made up.
"Look, I am Hillary's worst nightmare," he told Lemon of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. "She knows it. He knows it. I think the smart people in politics know it.
"The message is out there. People are liking what I am saying."
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