MSNBC Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have reported multiple scoops on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition efforts and potential cabinet selections since the election. The exclusives come as the pair, who often give Trump friendly coverage, have confirmed that they regularly speak directly to Trump and have reportedly been advising him, including on his cabinet selections. These reports raise questions about the journalistic ethics surrounding Morning Joe’s Trump coverage, as well as the extent of the hosts’ relationship with the president-elect.
Since the election, Scarborough and Brzezinski have frequently cited “sources” when reporting exclusive details about Trump and his transition efforts. On November 22, Brzezinski claimed that “a source with direct knowledge of Donald Trump's thinking” told Morning Joe that Trump would “not pursue any investigations into Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server and the Clinton Foundation” because Trump believes she had “‘been through enough.’” On November 28, Brzezinski reported that “sources” told MSNBC that Trump was “furious” at his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, for publicly criticizing Mitt Romney, a former Trump critic and possible candidate for secretary of state. Scarborough a few minutes later on the show said Trump told him personally he did not want Romney to apologize for his previous criticism. The next day, Scarborough reported that Conway was the “only noise internally, based on all of my sources” within Trump’s transition team, opposing Romney. And on December 6, Brzezinski claimed that “sources familiar with Trump's thinking” told the show that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was “not in serious contention” for the secretary of state position, retired Gen. David Petraeus was “no longer a serious candidate,” and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was also “fading” in contention for the position.*
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on November 19 that Trump “often seeks out” advice from Scarborough. And in late November, Brzezinski met Trump’s daughter Ivanka for coffee at Trump Tower. Politico also reported that Scarborough “tells Trump his opinions on Cabinet picks, both in private and on air.” Scarborough, speaking with Politico, confirmed that he and Brzezinski “‘talk to Trump a few times a week,’” claiming that they “‘say the same thing to him on the phone that we say publicly on the show.’” These reports raise the question of whether the hosts are reporting scoops on Trump’s cabinet that they themselves have advised on.
This apparent arrangement also comes as Scarborough and Brzezinski continue to defend Trump, a pattern they exhibited throughout much of the presidential campaign and for which multiple media figures have criticized them. As Politico noted, the hosts seem to have a “symbiotic relationship” with Trump, where “Scarborough and Brzezinski need the access to Trump and his inner circle to break news, provide analysis and exert influence,” and Trump “needs the pair for their audience.”
* The piece has been corrected to clarify that Brzezinski said retired Gen. David Petraeus was “no longer a serious candidate” for the secretary of state position. It originally inaccurately quoted her as saying he was "not a serious candidate” for the position.