Back in favor at Fox News, Donald Trump dropped a bombshell in the middle of an interview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday night that should warm the hearts of Republicans everywhere: He will support the Republican nominee for president, even if it's not him.
"Let's assume you're treated fairly in the process, you didn't win the nomination -- at that point, you would support the Republican candidate?" Hannity asked.
"That's true," Trump said.
It was a change in tune since one of the hottest moments from last week's debate of GOP presidential hopefuls in Cleveland, when Fox's moderators asked whether Trump would break from the GOP and run as a third-party candidate. Trump, smiling, refused to make any promises.
Whether he sticks to his new line remains to be seen, but in the meantime, Trump has thrown Fox -- not to mention the Republican Party -- a big bone. The news comes after reports that he and Fox chairman Roger Ailes patched things up in the post-debate fallout. After the mogul torched Fox News for days over an aggressive set of questions during the GOP debate, particularly his thrashing by co-host Megyn Kelly, Trump worked out his beef with Ailes over the phone. He addressed the conflict at the start of the Hannity interview.
"Let's start with the elephant in the room," Hannity began, sitting across from the mogul in the menagerie of Trump Tower for the hourlong interview. "The Fox issue is resolved. How did that come about?"
"Well, I have a great relationship with Roger Ailes," Trump began, as he often does. "And, actually, I didn't understand what went wrong because I was not treated fairly."
"Roger called me the other day, and it's absolutely fine," Trump added.
According to New York's Gabriel Sherman, Ailes had been scrambling to make peace with Trump while the ex-reality TV star skewered Fox News on every other outlet he could find. The Fox boss was initially hoping Trump would appear on Kelly's show, "The Kelly File," to clear the air, but Trump balked. The Hannity interview, much friendlier territory for Trump, appears to be the fruit of their backroom dealing.
On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted:
Roger Ailes just called. He is a great guy & assures me that “Trump” will be treated fairly on @FoxNews. His word is always good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2015
Ailes put out his own statement saying they had reached an understanding through "a blunt but cordial conversation."
In the rest of the interview, Hannity allowed Trump to torpedo Hillary Clinton and his GOP rivals, and rattle off his solutions to issues like healthcare and immigration. Hannity made sure to flatter Trump at several points, calling him a political savant and "shockingly honest."
As Sherman noted, Ailes appears to have chosen peace with Trump over support for his own superstar Kelly, who has reportedly received death threats and harassment since she challenged Trump as debate moderator. Trump also got heat from the press after he told CNN that there was "blood coming from [Kelly's] eyes," during the debate, as well as "out of her ... wherever.’’ Trump has said he was simply trailing off, and was going to say something like "nose," while most people are convinced he was making fun of menstruation.
Fox's own Brit Hume jumped on Trump for that one, while Kelly has stood by her mission to produce "good journalism" even as her employer frantically tried to win back Trump's affections.
The mood has been markedly different since Trump and Ailes made their make-up public. The gang on the channel's morning chat show "Fox & Friends" welcomed their former contributor with open arms on Tuesday morning.
“I’m glad we’re friends again,” said co-host Steve Doocy.
“We’ve always been friends,” Trump replied.
Post-debate polls show Trump, who has dominated the field for over a month, gaining in Iowa as well as New Hampshire.