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Donald Trump vs. Megyn Kelly: Fox News blasts Trump over 'sick obsession'

Trump responds by calling Kelly ‘highly overrated’

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Fox News has issued a sharply worded response to presidential candidate Donald Trump and his continued criticism of anchor Megyn Kelly.

“Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her is beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate who wants to occupy the highest office in the land,” the network said in a statement Friday.

“Megyn is an exemplary journalist and one of the leading anchors in America — we’re extremely proud of her phenomenal work and continue to fully support her throughout every day of Trump’s endless barrage of crude and sexist verbal assaults,” the statement continues. “As the mother of three young children, with a successful law career and the second highest rated show in cable news, it’s especially deplorable for her to be repeatedly abused just for doing her job.”

The statement came as a rejoinder to a volley of disparaging tweets from Trump this week, culminating in a missive Friday that said, “Everybody should boycott the @megynkelly show. Never worth watching. Always a hit on Trump! She is sick, & the most overrated person on tv.”

Kelly, who hosts The Kelly File, has been at odds with Trump since she co-moderated the first Republican presidential debate in August and pressed him about sexist comments he has made in the past.

Trump complained after the event that Kelly unfairly targeted him, telling CNN, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

Trump declined to participate in a subsequent Fox News debate co-moderated by Kelly, only to attend a third such event without incident.

This week he renewed his criticisms of Kelly on social media and said he would skip the Fox News debate scheduled for March 21 in Salt Lake City because of a prior speaking engagement. John Kasich also withdrew, and the network ultimately canceled the event.

RELATED VIDEO: Megyn Kelly talks Trump feud

Responding to Fox News’ defense of Kelly, a representative for the Trump campaign said in a statement Friday evening, “Megyn Kelly is a highly overrated reporter and anchor that constantly disparages Mr. Trump with negative and inaccurate reports. Despite the fact he wants nothing to do with her and will not appear on her show due to her extremely biased reporting, much of the program is about him anyway on a nightly basis.”

The statement continued, “In fact, Fox News has begged Mr. Trump to do a prime time special to be broadcast on the Fox Network, not cable, with Megyn Kelly. He has turned them down. Likewise, they recently called for an unsolicited and unplanned debate with Kelly as a featured moderator. He turned them down and they immediately canceled. On the Fox debate that Mr. Trump did not do, they received by far their lowest rating. Unlike Megyn Kelly, who resorts to putting out statements via Fox News, Mr. Trump will continue to defend himself against the inordinate amount of unfair and inaccurate coverage he receives on her second-rate show each night.”

And although Trump’s campaign said the network “called for an unsolicited and unplanned debate with Kelly as a featured moderator,” the event was announced by the Republican National Committee, on Feb. 20.