Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, have met privately with Donald Trump while Scarborough is reportedly advising the president-elect, yet both still reject media criticism of their overly positive coverage of the former reality show celebrity. On the November 29 edition of Morning Joe alone, the hosts carried water for President-elect Trump on five separate topics, including criticizing journalists for scrutinizing his extensive conflicts of interest and reporting on Pro-Trump “fake news.”
Morning Joe Hosts Scarborough And Brzezinski Have Repeatedly Met Privately With Trump
Mika Brzezinski “Spoke To Members Of The [Trump] Family” And Was Seen Entering Trump Tower For A “Meeting.” Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski said on the November 29 edition of Morning Joe that she has “spoken to members of the [Trump] family.” That same day she was seen entering Trump Tower and “said she had a ‘meeting’” which, according to reports, was with Ivanka Trump. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 11/29/16, Twitter, 11/29/16, Twitter, 11/29/16]
Scarborough Confirmed He Has Discussed The Presidential Transition With Trump Amid Reports That He Is An Advisor. On November 28, Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough recounted a conversation he had with President-elect Donald Trump on his cabinet picks amid reports that he is advising Trump. On November 19, The New York Times reported that Trump “still maintains the routine that sustained him during the campaign,” which includes “often seek[ing] out” advice from Scarborough. CNN media reporter Brian Stelter referenced the Times report on the November 20 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, stating that Scarborough “has been giving Trump advice.” [Media Matters, 11/28/16]
Media Matters Has Called On MSNBC To Address Reports That Scarborough Is Advising Trump, Which Compromises The Network’s Journalistic Integrity. On November 21, Media Matters wrote that “MSNBC must address recent reports that President-elect Donald Trump ‘often seeks out’ political advice from network host Joe Scarborough. If true, the reports call into question Morning Joe’s Trump coverage and present an ethical dilemma for the network.” [Media Matters, 11/21/16]
Scarborough And Brzezinski Have Defended Their Treatment Of Trump , Lashing Out At Critics Who Highlight Their Favorable Coverage
NBC's Pollster: Morning Joe “Created” Trump. Peter Hart, chairman of one of the research firms that provides polls for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, used Morning Joe as an example of how the media fostered Trump as a viable general election candidate. Hart noted that the MSNBC show “created” Trump “and then essentially, he turned on them." From the October 19 discussion at Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy:
NICCO MELE (HOST): How you do understand the role of the media in this election cycle?
PETER HART: I think the one thing we can all agree on is, ratings have driven this. I mean, Donald Trump has been a magnet, I mean, in that you can put him on anytime, anywhere and bingo. I love sort of the Morning Joe element. You know, they created him, and then essentially, he turned on them, and they turned on him, and you know, you have all of this. But I guarantee you that the number of hours that Donald Trump has gotten -- I mean, if today Donald Trump got a true influenza and could not appear, and he said, “Mike Pence will appear in my place,” the audience would drop by three quarters. [Media Matters, 10/21/16]
On CNN’s Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter and Media Critic David Zurawik Criticized Scarborough's “Very Cozy” And “Inappropriate” Relationship With Donald Trump. On the February 14 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter said that “what we see sometimes on-air is a very cozy relationship between [Trump and Scarborough], and in fact I've seen the name “Morning Trump” being used to describe Morning Joe recently.” Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik added that Scarborough’s relationship with Trump was “inappropriate” and that “even somebody like a morning show host plays a role ... in setting the parameters of the national conversation around these candidates” and “shouldn't be so involved with them that you're going down and giving them tips.” [CNN, Reliable Sources, 2/14/16]
Joe Scarborough Lashed Out At Critics Over Suggestions That Morning Joe Is Biased Toward Trump. Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough lashed out in response to criticism that he and his MSNBC show have been overly supportive of President-elect Donald Trump, calling critical journalists “disgusting.” [Media Matters, 11/4/16]
Morning Joe Devolves Into Screaming Match After Bill Kristol Calls Out Hosts For “Rewriting History” On The Show's Positive Trump Coverage. After conservative writer Bill Kristol said on Morning Joe that the hosts were “rewriting history” by “pretend[ing]” that they were tough on Trump, the segment turned into a screaming match. Scarborough accused Kristol of lying and mocked him, saying, “you’re practically crying.” [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 10/20/16]
But In Just One Show, The Morning Joe Hosts Defended Trump’s Questionable Business Dealings, Unconstitutional Proposals, And Bigoted Cabinet Picks
Brzezinski Criticized The Media For Scrutinizing The Trump Family, Downplaying Concerns Over Their Worldwide Business Dealings And Extensive Conflicts Of Interest. Brzezinski, noting that she’s “spoken to the members of the [Trump] family,” claimed that Trump and his family are “literally just trying to get through the day” and “don’t care what people think.” She added that “the media needs to stop getting ahead of their skis” on issues like Ivanka Trump sitting in on a meeting with the prime minister of Japan and “whether the business interests are crisscrossing” with Trump’s role and activities as president-elect, concluding, “there’s no big story … until we know what it is.” From the November 29 edition of Morning Joe:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): So, again, to finish the point about leaving people guessing, every move that they’re making right now, and just what I was trying to say is, they don't care about a big reaction. The Trumps are used to a big life. You know, this move into the White House, everybody talking about Melania waiting to leave, like, “Oh my God, who could do that? Who in history has ever done that?” They’re used to, quite frankly, handling a very big existence, and they are trying to figure it out for themselves. The meeting with the leader of Japan, everybody second guessing whether the business interests are crisscrossing -- I’ve spoken to the members of the family, they’re literally just trying to get through the day. They don't care what people think. They’re trying to figure this out. And I just think the media needs to stop getting ahead of their skis on all of this, because we are dealing with something that we’ve never seen before, and so we have to just report on it until we can figure it out. There's no big story here in terms of the Kellyanne [Conway] thing, and there’s no big story in terms of anything else until we know what it is. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 11/29/16]
Scarborough Mocks Concern Over “Fake News,” A Spreading Problem That Reportedly Helped Trump Win The Election. Scarborough attacked reporting on “fake news” -- social media content that is entirely fabricated but is presented as real news, and which is entirely distinct from reporting by legitimate news organizations that seeks to present and analyze facts to accurately inform their consumers. Scarborough misrepresented what fake news is, instead claiming fake news was the reporting from legitimate news organizations during the campaign that suggested Trump was not winning. In fact, BuzzFeed News found that fake news outperformed real news in the final three months of the election, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the problem and committed to taking action. From the November 29 edition of Morning Joe:
MIKE BARNICLE: There’s a reason why people are going to Facebook for news, unfortunately. I really regret saying that, but you can't ignore the facts.
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): And Willie, how silly does the media look after the election talking about all these stories about fake news on Facebook, which drive me crazy --
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): And doing a cross-country tour on how they got it wrong.
SCARBOROUGH: Despite the fact that, for most of America, the mainstream media has been reporting fake news over the past year and a half, because they have read every single day, “Donald Trump can't win.” The best and the brightest in the media profession, “Donald Trump can't win, he’s got a one percent chance of winning the nomination” --
BRZEZINSKI: “There’s no way.”
SCARBOROUGH: “Donald Trump can't win, he’s got a five percent peak, he can't get above 20 percent. Donald Trump can't win because of this. Donald Trump can't win because of that.” Now, that's the message they have read every day and seen on TV every day from the mainstream media, and to them, going up, following up on Mike’s point, that looks like fake news because it was fake news. They were wrong from the beginning. Their assumptions were wrong from the very beginning, and their assumptions polluted their reporting. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 11/29/16; Media Matters, 11/19/16]
Scarborough Cherry-Picked Trump’s Cabinet-Level Picks To Claim Trump “Has Gone Very Mainstream Republican.” Scarborough insisted Trump “has gone very mainstream Republican” with his choices for cabinet and cabinet-level positions in his administration, pointing to Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), and Gen. James Mattis. But Scarborough did not mention Trump’s other picks, some of whom are far outside the mainstream, which would have undermined his point. For example, Trump has also tapped Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who was rejected from a judgeship for racist comments in the 1980s and was positively called “an aggressive anti-black racist” by a white nationalist website; Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who has a history of anti-Muslim positions and statements; and Stephen Bannon, who ran the anti-Semitic white nationalist website Breitbart.com. From the November 29 edition of Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Let's look at these picks so far. You’ve got a lot of never Trumpers, a lot of people in the conservative intelligentsia who have been really shocked by picks. [Rep. Tom] Price [(R-GA)], they’re going to like Price. [Rep. Mike] Pompeo [(R-KS)], they’re going to like Pompeo. [Gen. James] Mattis, most -- that's who Bill Kristol was trying to get to run for president. Donald Trump has gone very mainstream Republican, going into some of the territory of the very people that were trying to stop him the most. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 11/29/16; Media Matters, 11/18/16, 11/18/16, 11/14/16]
Scarborough Falsely Claimed Trump Doesn’t Support A Ban On Muslims Entering The Country, Even Though The Proposal Is Still On Trump’s Website. Scarborough argued that Trump has “moved beyond” his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country and that Trump actually wants to introduce “extreme vetting” for people who travel to the United States from Muslim countries. Trump has denied that he wants to introduce a Muslim ban, but the proposal to do so has been on his official website since December 2015. The webpage for the proposal was briefly redirected to another page on November 10, but was restored later that same day. From the November 29 edition of Morning Joe:
EUGENE ROBINSON: With Mitt Romney, I guess the question I still have, it comes down to two words, Muslim ban, which Donald Trump modified, President-elect Trump modified to mean extreme vetting and to be from countries that just happen to be Muslim countries --
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Right. Well that's actually not a Muslim ban. It's moved beyond that.
ROBINSON: But it's a big deal for Mitt Romney, and Mitt Romney -- I am not sure that Mitt Romney can convince himself that calling a Muslim ban by another name is anything other than a Muslim ban.
SCARBOROUGH: But Gene, it’s not -- with all due respect, it's not a Muslim ban. A Muslim ban is saying if you’re Muslim, you can’t come into the country. If you talk about extreme vetting from places like Syria, that actually sounds rational to about 98 percent of the people that voted for Donald Trump and a lot of people who didn't, especially after yesterday's news. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 11/29/16; The Washington Post, 11/10/16]
Brzezinski Called Constitutionally-Protected Flag Burning “The Next Level Of Some Sort Of Hate Crime” In Defense Of A Trump Tweet. After Trump tweeted that “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail,” Brzezinski said there is “a connection between flag burning and that being the next level of some sort of hate crime.” But flag burning was ruled in 1989 to be constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment, a decision Scarborough falsely attributed to Justice Anthony Kennedy (who wrote a concurrence) while neglecting to mention that it was actually conservative Justice Antonin Scalia who was part of the majority opinion. From the November 29 edition of Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Here's a history, though, of it, and actually we have just grown up to assume you could always burn the American flag or desecrate it. In 1989, there was a case, Texas v. Johnson, where actually it was a 5-4 decision and just barely passed. [Justice Anthony] Kennedy was the one that, as usual, wrote the decision and was the deciding vote. So --
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I think many Americans would support that.
SCARBOROUGH: And then in 2006, I think it was 2005, 2006, the Senate actually tried to amend the Constitution to prevent desecration of the flag and it only failed by one vote. I only bring this up to say, maybe some people around him said, hey, this wouldn’t be a bad issue to push forward to stop people, in the age of Colin Kaepernick and others, stop people from burning the flag. And while elites will sniff and -- again, this is a much closer decision, at least, than a lot of people assume it is, 5-4.
BRZEZINSKI: I think it's an interesting thing to bring up at this time because hate crimes are obviously -- I mean, there’s, even yesterday after a terrible event, law enforcement saying we treat hate crimes like murder, and you could say, you could look at a connection between flag burning and that being the next level of some sort of hate crime. You certainly don't -- you see that with other symbols across the country in cases -- I don't want to dig myself into a hole, but it's a bad thing to do.
WILLIE GEIST (CO-HOST): It is, but it's protected by the -- I would never burn a flag, I find it repulsive --