The Washington Post's Erik Wemple defended his criticism of MSNBC Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski for their “puff session” interview with Donald Trump during the network's exclusive February 17 town hall with the Republican presidential candidate.
In a February 17 piece, Wemple criticized MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski for not questioning “Trump's shameful record of racism, bigotry and rampant disrespect” during a one-hour presidential town hall that evening. Wemple asserted that “any hour-long session with Donald Trump that doesn't ask him about those obscenities is a puff session” and that the MSNBC duo's failure to challenge Trump was a “journalistic shortfall.” Wemple joined a chorus of media critics calling out the “softball” treatment of Trump. After receiving direct criticism from Scarborough and Brzezinski, Wemple issued a satirical apology in which he reasserted that he stood “by every word of our review of the Scarborough-Brzezinski Trump town hall.”
On the February 21 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, Wemple again doubled-down on his criticism of the MSNBC hosts, saying that “it's the media's role” to keep bringing up Trump's “record of offenses and outrages of racist, and sexist, and bigoted nature”:
BRIAN STELTER (HOST): The campaign trail wars have nothing on the cable news wars. The latest example, dueling town halls. CNN airing a town hall with three GOP candidates while MSNBC set up an hour-long town hall with Donald Trump moderated by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Now, Scarborough was criticized for some of the questions in his town hall. Let me show you one of the examples here. This is from Erik Wemple of The Washington Post. He said that “MSNBC and Morning Joe hosts let Trump skate on bigotry and racism.” Well, Erik Wemple of The Washington Post joins me now in Washington. Erik, I want you to respond to Scarborough because, as you and I both know, he's been the subject of media coverage, including here at CNN, describing a -- maybe a cozy relationship with Donald Trump. He's been defending himself and dismissing those criticisms. Let's take a look at what he said about you on his show the other day.
So he says he's being tough on Trump. You said he let Trump “skate.”
ERIK WEMPLE: Right, I mean, I think that there -- it's one of these great Washington situations where both sides can sort of claim, “hey, look at this question, look at at that question.” My point here Brian is sort of a larger one, and that is if you allow Donald Trump -- if you engage him only on like say Social Security, Iraq, and the issues, and how he's going to unite the Republican Party, you're essentially giving him a a pass. You're allowing him into the polite company of a presidential election. Where I think that there's a bigger issue here, and that is that he has compiled this record of offenses and outrages of racist, and sexist, and bigoted nature. And I think that if you have an hour to spend with him, and you don't talk about any of that, a lot of it came in 2015 -- I think that some media people have moved on. But I think Donald Trump has never apologized for any of his outrages. He's never made amends, he's never adequately explained any of it. And I don't think that it's the media's role to sort of let that go by the wayside. I think it's the media's role to keep bringing that up. Now, The Huffington Post has this footer that they attach to every story on Donald Trump where they recite all his various outrages and they link to supporting documentation.