ATLANTA—Donald Trump was supposed to be the keynote speaker at the RedState Gathering here, a convocation of the hard-core conservative activists who read the influential blog edited by Erick Erickson. But when Trump said on CNN late Friday that debate moderator and Fox News host Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” Erickson, who is a Fox News contributor, announced he had disinvited Trump from the conference. “There are just real lines of decency a person running for President should not cross,” Erickson wrote.
As the linchpin of a GOP counter-establishment of Tea Party-oriented media and PACs, Erickson may be the most powerful conservative in America. A knowledgeable source confirmed to me last week’s report that he will soon announce his departure from RedState—Erickson’s heart is in his work as a radio host, and he will continue to write commentaries on his personal website. Trump was one of 10 presidential candidates who had accepted the invitation to speak at this year’s RedState Gathering, including Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Carly Fiorina.
When Erickson announced Trump's disinvitation to the packed ballroom Saturday morning—playing the offending video for the crowd—there were scattered boos but mostly cheers. Trump responded with a statement claiming he’d said “her eyes and whatever,” and meant her nose; he called Erickson a “total loser” and noted Erickson’s own history of sexist and offensive comments. I interviewed Erickson about the controversy, the effect Trump is having on the GOP, and Erickson’s own standing to criticize anyone for outrageousness. This is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.