Backlash over the comments Donald Trump made about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly have cost him his top political operative, Roger Stone.
Trump’s campaign said they fired Roger Stone, the self-described political “hit man” who has long advised Trump. Stone, however, told MSNBC that he was not terminated and instead resigned over Trump’s behavior.
Trump announced Stone’s departure in an interview with The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, although he suggested Stone may deny his version of events. Stone caused a stir this week after he called Republican strategist Ana Navarro, who is Hispanic, and commentator Roland Martin, who is African-American, “quota hires” on Twitter.
“Unfortunately, the current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message,” Stone wrote. “With this current direction of the candidacy, I no longer can remain involved in your campaign.”
Trump’s campaign accused Stone of exploiting the campaign for personal gain.
Roger Stone, pictured at his office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a veteran Republican political operative with a reputed skill for dirty tricks. Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald/Getty
“Mr. Trump fired Roger Stone last night,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We have a tremendously successful campaign and Roger wanted to use the campaign for his own personal publicity. He has had a number of articles about him recently and Mr. Trump wants to keep the focus of the campaign on how to Make America Great Again.”
After news of the shakeup broke, Stone took to Twitter to say that he had actually resigned from the campaign.
Over the phone, Stone told Costa that he decided to leave after weeks of friction with the Donald: “I categorically deny I was fired, and I’ll let my resignation letter speak to the other issues.”
— Robert Costa (@costareports) August 8, 2015
Stone said that Trump’s perpetual quarreling — most recently with Fox News commentator Megyn Kelly — was diverting attention from their central message of restoring national pride and bringing jobs back to the U.S.
“Unfortunately, the current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message. With this current direction of the candidacy, I no longer can remain involved in your campaign,” he wrote.
Stone, who has known Trump since the 1980’s, added that he cares about the GOP front-runner as a friend and that he cares about the fate of the nation. He vowed to stay active in the national debate so that the Oval Office does not fall to the Bush or Clinton families again.
Trump said that Stone was fired because he is “cleaning house” so his run for the White House is free of publicity seekers — another point with which Stone took issue.
“The notion that I somehow need @realDonaldTrump to get publicity for myself is really, really funny- he should do a google NEWS search,” he wrote on Twitter.
Stone spoke with CNN’s Poppy Harlow (video below) late Saturday afternoon and again insisted he quit, saying he felt he “was having no impact.” He said he hoped Trump would return to speaking about the “big picture” issues, such as trade and immigration, that helped fuel his rise to the top of GOP polls.
But Stone refused to elaborate in greater detail about how his relationship with the campaign ruptured, saying he had “no intention about talking about internal campaign deliberations.”
He did say, however, that he and Trump remain friends, and although he isn’t a registered Republican, said he would continue to back a Trump bid.
“If I had the opportunity to vote for him in the primaries, I would,” he said. “I still think he is the right man to make America great again.”
Stone also commented: “I care about you as a friend and wish you well. Be assured I will continue to be vocal and active in the national debate to ensure our nation does not again turn to the failed and distrusted Bush/Clinton families.”
Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said the team never saw Stone’s letter.
Donald Trump Adviser Roger Stone’s CNN Interview.