Morning Joe cohosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski said Friday that a White House official offered to kill an unflattering upcoming story about them in the National Enquirer — but only, reportedly, if they stopped criticizing President Trump on their MSNBC show.
Trump seemed to confirm some involvement when he tweeted on Friday morning, "Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show"
It was Day Two of an old-school scandal between Trump; Scarborough and Brzezinski, who are engaged; and now the supermarket tabloid Enquirer, whose owner is staunchly pro-Trump and, as the New Yorker recently reported, has taken input from the president in the past on what should be in its pages. It exploded on Thursday, when Trump tweeted that Brzezinski — who criticized him earlier on the show — was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" at his Mar-a-Lago club over New Years.
Scarborough and Brzezinski, who delayed the start of their vacation to respond to Trump, hit first on Friday in an op-ed in the Washington Post saying the president has an "unhealthy obsession" with their show and is "not mentally equipped" to watch it. They suggested he stick with Fox News.
"This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas," Scarborough and Brzezinski wrote.
Scarborough discussed this further during his appearance on Morning Joe Friday, prompting a response from Donald Trump, who said that the host had "called me to stop a National Enquirer article."
Scarborough responded with his own tweet, saying that the president had told "yet another lie" said added, "I have texts from your top aides and phone records" — many people on social media called for him to release the "receipts." (Which MSNBC is reportedly not going to do.)
He followed that up with another tweet asking the president, "Why do you keep lying about things that are so easily disproven? What is wrong with you?"
According to CNN's Brian Stelter, Scarborough told NBC executives about the threats as they were happening.
New York magazine then reported that Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was going to report — which it eventually did earlier in June — that the hosts left their spouses to be together.
But before publication, in April, New York Magazine reported that "Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused.
But a senior administration official — turning this into a he-said-she-said — told BuzzFeed News that to was Scarborough who called the White House, and not the other way around.
On the air on Friday, Brzezinski said, "I'm fine," adding that her "family brought [her] up really tough."
In discussing what happened, Brzezinski said she's not worried about what President Trump is saying about her.
She went on to say that her father had just died, her mother has had two heart attacks, and that her daughter recently lost a friend, and that these are the things that she worries about.
National Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard said in a statement that he did not "threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting" on a story that ran in early June and that he did not know about any discussions between the White House and the hosts about that story.
At the beginning of June, we accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute. At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story. We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions.
Scarborough discussed the president's treatment of women, saying how he will insult Trump on air but "for some reason he always goes after Mika."
“He for some reason takes things so much more personally with women. He’s so much more vicious with women,” Scarborough said.
He went on to say that a "well-known congressman" once told him that the president went on a rant about Brzezinski in front a group of 20 members of Congress who were summoned to the White House to discuss the health care bill.
The congressman said that when Trump switched from talking about Scarborough to Brzezinski, "he was vicious."
"His face was red, he started talking about blood coming out of her ears, out of her eyes," Scarborough recalls the congressman saying. He said that the congressman then told him he was scared for the hosts.
"I've been in politics for decades and never seen anything like this," the congressman said, according to Scarborough.
In the Washington Post piece, Scarborough and Brzezinski also addressed the president's treatment of women.
"It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children," they wrote.
On Thursday, Trump fired off a tweet calling Brzezinski "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and Scarborough "Psycho Joe."
He followed that up with another tweet that said that Brzezinski was bleeding from a face lift when he refused to see the couple for three nights in a row at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort around New Year's Eve.
Scarborough called this a lie in the Washington Post piece, and said his fiancee got this :
Mr. Trump claims that we asked to join him at Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row. That is false. He also claimed that he refused to see us. That is laughable.
The president-elect invited us both to dinner on Dec. 30. Joe attended because Mika did not want to go. After listening to the president-elect talk about his foreign policy plans, Joe was asked by a disappointed Mr. Trump the next day if Mika could also visit Mar-a-Lago that night. She reluctantly agreed to go. After we arrived, the president-elect pulled us into his family’s living quarters with his wife, Melania, where we had a pleasant conversation. We politely declined his repeated invitations to attend a New Year’s Eve party, and we were back in our car within 15 minutes.
Mr. Trump also claims that Mika was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” That is also a lie.
Putting aside Mr. Trump’s never-ending obsession with women’s blood, Mika and her face were perfectly intact, as pictures from that night reveal. And though it is no one’s business, the president’s petulant personal attack against yet another woman’s looks compels us to report that Mika has never had a face-lift. If she had, it would be evident to anyone watching “Morning Joe” on their high-definition TV. She did have a little skin under her chin tweaked, but this was hardly a state secret. Her mother suggested she do so, and all those around her were aware of this mundane fact.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Brzezinski said that night she had told Melania Trump about the procedure. Trump jumped in with compliments — and a request for a referral to her plastic surgeon, Scarborough said.
“The irony of it all is that Donald kept saying, ‘That’s incredible. You can’t even tell. Who did it? Who did it?’ He kept asking for the name of the doctor. He literally asked 10 times. ‘Is he down here? Who is he?’” Scarborough told Vanity Fair.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Friday was on Good Morning America and wouldn't endorse what the president said on Twitter but did say she supports "the president’s right to fight back when he is being mercilessly attacked."
"I didn’t say I endorsed his attacks; I never said that," Conway said. "Bottom line I endorse his ability to connect on social media with Americans."
Several politicians spoke out Thursday against the president's comments including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Here's the entire segment from Friday's Morning Joe:
Jessica Simeone is a news assignment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Simeone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Namako is the deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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