Is Donald Trump really scared of Megyn Kelly?

Updated 8:58 AM EST, Wed January 27, 2016

Story highlights

Donald Trump's bellyaching about "unfair" questions makes the braggadocious billionaire seem small, says Dean Obeidallah

Pulling out of the last debate before Iowa stands in sharp contrast to the grilling Hillary Clinton got at Benghazi committee, he says

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show,” a Daily Beast columnist and editor of the politics blog, The Dean’s Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

CNN —  

When Hillary Clinton was subjected to nearly 11 hours of intense cross-examination by Republican members of Congress during October’s Benghazi committee hearing, she took the grilling. The members of that Republican-controlled committee did their best to be as “unfair” as possible and Clinton knew that going in.

And even with Clinton’s voice failing by the end of this grueling inquisition, she didn’t complain about “unfair” or “tough” questions. To the contrary, she reaffirmed that, “I came here because I said I would. And I’ve done everything I know to do, as have the people with whom I worked, to try to answer your questions.”

What a contrast to Donald Trump, who said Tuesday he would bail on the Fox News-hosted GOP debate scheduled for Thursday because he feared that moderator Megyn Kelly wouldn’t treat him fairly.

A profile in whining

Trump has given us a profile in whining. On Monday, Trump bellyached to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Fox’s Kelly treats him “very unfairly.” Trump even suggested he could drop out of the debate unless Kelly promised to treat him in the manner to which the billionaire believed he was entitled. “I don’t think she can treat me fairly, actually. I think she’s very biased.”

Fox News responded by playfully taunting the GOP front-runner with a statement that read in part, “we’re very surprised he’s willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly.” They added that Trump, if elected president, will “have to learn that he doesn’t get to pick the journalists.”

That didn’t sit well with Trump, who took to social media lashing out with tweets such as “Fox will drop Kelly if it means no Trump. Nobody will watch w/o Trump.” He even invited his followers on social media to vote whether he should be a part of the debate.

In response, Fox News on Tuesday released this tongue-in-cheek statement: “We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president.” They even joked about Trump asking people on social media to decide if he should attend the debate: “A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”

A ratings gambit?

Of course, many dismissed this fighting as simply Trump and Fox News trying to up the ratings for Thursday’s debate. After all, what leading presidential candidate would actually drop out of a presidential debate because he or she thought there might be some tough questions asked?

But that’s exactly what appeared to happen on Tuesday night. Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski announced that Trump was out.

Trump’s campaign even tried to make his withdrawal from the Fox debate seem like an act of courage, saying in a statement:

“He will not be participating in the Fox News debate and will instead host an event in Iowa to raise money for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors, who have been treated so horribly by our all talk, no action politicians. Like running for office as an extremely successful person, this takes guts and it is the kind mentality our country needs in order to Make America Great Again.”

Of course, Trump still could change his mind and make a dramatic last-minute appearance at the Thursday debate. And for all we know, there could be other reasons for his decision to skip the debate, including the fact that he’s the front-runner in the polls and may have little to gain from debating his opponents.

Fox News said in a statement Tuesday night that Trump was still welcome at the debate, but “it should be clear to the American public by now that this is rooted in one thing – Megyn Kelly, whom he has viciously attacked since August and has now spent four days demanding be removed from the debate stage.

“Capitulating to politicians’ ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards, as do threats, including the one leveled by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski toward Megyn Kelly. In a call on Saturday with a Fox News executive, Lewandowski stated that Megyn had a ‘rough couple of days after that last debate’ and he ‘would hate to have her go through that again.’ Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats, but he continued to do so.”

Trump’s kryptonite?

Yet, if we take him at his word, the braggadocious, brash billionaire who has vowed to cut the “head off of ISIS” and take their oil, make Mexico pay for a massive wall on our southern border and ban all Muslims has a weakness: Tough questions. It’s apparently Trump’s kryptonite.

Will Trump lose supporters over his decision to drop out of the debate? Probably not, because they are already very distrustful of the mainstream media, and Trump can spin it as more evidence of media bias.

The real question is how does this play with the independent voters who haven’t backed Trump so far? I can’t believe any will be impressed by Trump quitting the debate. How can Trump convince them that he has what it takes to be commander in chief when he drops out of a debate because he feared a few “unfair” questions?

Being president of the United States is likely the toughest job in America, if not the world. The idea that you will be treated “fairly” as president is simply not part of the job description.

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