Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski accused the White House of trying to manipulate them with a National Enquirer story, writing in the Washington Post that a White House staffer claimed the tabloid would print a negative story about them unless they “begged the president” to stop it — something Morning Joe guest Donny Deutsch described as “blackmail.”
Scarborough and Brzezinski’s op-ed was a response to President Trump’s tweets that called Brzezinski “low I.Q. Mika” and said that her face was “bleeding” after plastic surgery.
When the White House called, “We ignored their desperate pleas,” they wrote. (The story they’re referring to appears to be a report about the relationship between the co-hosts, who are now engaged.)
“Our response, talking to my ex-husband and Joe and my kids, was screw it, let them run it,” Brzezinski said. “Go ahead and run it. We’re not calling. We’re not calling.”
The allegation also came up when Scarborough and Brzezinski, who had planned to take a break for the Fourth of July weekend, returned to their show to condemn the president’s attack. Trump was watching, as his tweets later showed:
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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
Later Friday, Scarborough took to twitter to allege that he had text messages and phone records to corroborate his story about warnings from White House officials.
Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months. https://t.co/TZWiElo6Gs— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) June 30, 2017
Brzezinski and Scarborough suggested in their op-ed that the president change the channel. “The president’s unhealthy obsession with ‘Morning Joe’ does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs,” they wrote. “Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate.”
“It does worry me about the country,” Brzezinski said on the air, continuing: “He appears to have a fragile, impetuous, childlike ego that we've seen over and over again, especially with women. It's like he can't take it.”
See the transcript of the on-air discussion below:
WILLIE GEIST: I want to ask you about something else you published in the Washington Post piece this morning. It's something, again, we've talked about in private. You've never talked about it on television. I'm already getting a lot of questions about it. I want to give you the chance to explain. “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.” What exactly happened there to the extent you're comfortable talking about it?
SCARBOROUGH: I'm comfortable talking. I think we have to talk about it now, because it explains the relationship and his really strange obsession with this show and in particular, his really disturbing obsession with Mika. We got a call that, “Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys.” And it was, “Donald is friends with — the president's friends with the guy that runs the National Enquirer.” And they said, “If you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and — basically — spike this story.”
I had — I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me, and the response was like, I was like, are you kidding me? I don't know what they have. Run a story? I'm not going to do it. The calls kept coming and kept coming. And they were like, “Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe. Just pick up the phone and call him.”
DONNIE DEUTSCH: It's blackmail.
BRZEZINSKI: And let me explain what they were threatening. They were calling my children. They were calling close friends of mine.
SCARBOROUGH: You're talking about the National Enquirer.
BRZEZINSKI: And they were pinning the story on my ex-husband, who would absolutely never do that. So I knew immediately it was a lie and that they had nothing. These calls persisted for quite some time, and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House where they said oh, this could go away.
GEIST: I just want to be very clear here. The National Enquirer is harassing your children, your daughters, who are teenagers?
GEIST: And then Joe in turn is getting calls from the White House —
MIKA: Saying, call Donald and apologize.
SCARBOROUGH: By the way, they're also -- I was at Mika's house, uh, for a few minutes, and came out, and there was a guy in a van that was, was just staked out there watching. It was clear that he was from a tabloid, and he started asking questions. And then after all this started to happen, that's when we started getting calls from the White House, saying, “If you call, you need to call the president” —
BRZEZINSKI: And our response talking to my ex-husband and Joe and my kids was screw it, let them run it. Go ahead and run it. We’re not calling. We’re not calling.
SCARBOROUGH: By the way, they ended up running something, and they interviewed a guy who is like “Yeah, I seen him there for about a year. He comes in. He buys about three six-packs a week here in my store.” Hold on. I've never bought a beer. You can check it out. I'll be Gary Hart here. Follow me around. I've never bought a beer in my life from a convenience store, from a bar. Anywhere.
DEUTSCH: I don't want to talk about tweets anymore. What you just said is one of the most frightening things I've ever heard.
MIKA: Well, this is what we got.
DEUTSCH: That basically that this story was going to run unless you grovel to the president, and then the president will kill the story.
GEIST: But, not just the story. We'll have National Enquirer stop harassing your children if you grovel to the president of the United States.
SCARBOROUGH: What makes it even worse for them is Donald Trump called me during the campaign and bragged about his friend who ran the National Enquirer. And he'd always say, have you seen the Ben Carson story? Have you seen the Ben Carson story? Have you seen that story in the Enquirer? And then he'd talk about it. Did they do the JFK story too? I don't know if they did the JFK story too. But there were all these stories planted in the National Enquirer for people that Donald Trump wanted to attack.