With one of the most-watched news shows in his time slot, Joe Scarborough has been pushing right-wing talking points to a massive audience. The MSNBC host is using narratives on policing, immigration, debt relief, and “wokeness” that are typically confined to Fox News.
Elsewhere in mainstream media, CNN’s new leadership has clamped down on hosts expressing their opinions and taken actions to appeal to more conservative viewers. As John Harwood pointed out on his last day at CNN, mainstream media has a false equivalency issue. He told Jim Sciutto, “These are not honest disagreements. The Republican Party right now is led by a dishonest demagogue. Many, many Republicans are rallying behind his lies about the 2020 election, and other things, as well.”
Now, one of MSNBC’s most-watched shows is also giving airtime to bad-faith arguments levied by conservatives. A former GOP congressman turned MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough has frequently used narratives that misrepresent liberal policies and beliefs. His show has elevated Fox News-style talking points attacking the Biden administration and liberal politicians, becoming a home base for criticizing Biden’s student loan policies; bemoaning wokeness; and fearmongering about crime and immigration.
Here are some of this year’s examples of Morning Joe hosts and guests pushing right-wing talking points on mainstream news:
Policing and crime
Fox News has repeatedly pushed the idea that there is a “crime crisis” in America. Fox hosts have been pushing the idea that focusing on crime will lead to GOP victories in the midterms, leading the way by fearmongering about police reform efforts and crime rates. Morning Joe is bringing this rhetoric to a mainstream audience.
- Scarborough dismissed the idea that statistics might disprove his perception of a crime wave, citing the Murdoch family-owned New York Post and anecdotal experiences to argue we have “anarchy” across America.
- Scarborough blasted frequent Fox News target Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s progressive district attorney, and his policies. He also suggested New York City Mayor Eric Adams was “besieged from all sides” after trying to be tough on crime. MSNBC correspondent Tom Winter added, “How are you going to get guns when you no longer prosecute people for jumping the turnstile on subway stations? When somebody detecting the odor of marijuana no longer makes it a feasible car stop or something that’s going to be prosecuted?”
- Scarborough and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele accused Democrats of putting people in danger by being too scared of wokeness to address crime. Steele said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is “soft-pedal[ing] on crime because she’s afraid of a wokeness that, right now, is allowing this crime to run amuck.”
- Scarborough and his June 8 panel used the recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin — who was elected in 2019 by less than 3,000 votes — as evidence that liberal voters have turned their backs on “utopian” progressive reforms. His co-host Willie Geist claimed Boudin was “happy to look the other way” on crime, homelessness, and public drug use.
- Morning Joe brought on former New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton who created a false equivalency between Republicans “inciting violence” and Democrats supposedly “enabling the criminal elements” by pushing criminal justice reforms. Bratton described Republicans as a “party of anarchists” but claimed Democrats are “strangling” police with regulations and the “insanity” of the defund movement.
Right-wing media have made an effort to convince the public that the border is “open,” citing new waves of migrants entering the U.S. Morning Joe aids these characterizations and often argues the conservative viewpoint is correct, while also pushing right-wing talking points like the recent “rainbow fentanyl” narrative.
- Scarborough claimed in June that Democrats are intentionally ignoring a “massive crisis” at the border and argued the Biden administration is “completely lost” on immigration, pointing in part to the end of Title 42.
- In July, Scarborough told María Teresa Kumar, founding president of Voto Latino — an organization aimed at increasing political participation among Latino voters — that many Latino voters see “anarchy” at the border.
- On September 16, Scarborough acknowledged that migrant caravan stories spring up before every election, but he claimed that “this time is different.”
- In June, Scarborough argued the death of 46 migrants in a semitrailer in San Antonio, Texas, was the result of the United States sending the message that illegal crossings are allowed, then claimed Latino voters want tough laws and deportation.
- On September 16, Mika Brzezinski read a headline warning that rainbow fentanyl supposedly marketed toward children had been detected in 18 states.
- Scarborough suggested that Republican extremism is the only thing preventing a defeat of Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona, where the GOP would otherwise benefit from “chaos” on the border.
Student loan forgiveness
Morning Joe has frequently opposed student loan forgiveness by using conservative talking points which claim the measures will worsen America’s economy and create an unfair burden on those who did not take out student loans.
- Scarborough said he had “a thousand reasons” to be concerned about the debt relief measure, arguing it will only exacerbate predatory lending and calling it “more gas onto the fire.”
- Conservative columnist Megan McArdle appeared on Morning Joe in August to argue, among other things, that student loan forgiveness causes “fairness problems” for those who have paid off their debts.
- Co-host Willie Geist cited criticism of student loan forgiveness from the Murdoch family-owned Wall Street Journal and argued that it is “not particularly popular” by using a poll that revealed a plurality of Americans support it.
- On the August 25 show, journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin compared student loan forgiveness to the 2008 bailouts of massive financial institutions, saying that when that happened there were “lots of folks who got very upset that certain people were getting helped over other people, if you recall.”
A frequent conservative focus is the idea that any push for social change should be derided as “wokeness.” This has been used to advance conservatives’ varied and bigoted agendas, fighting against progress for the LGBTQ community and people of color. Morning Joe has corroborated some of these attacks
- In July, Scarborough suggested that other people on television are “afraid” to admit Americans are opposed to transgender women in sports, then validated right-wing claims that kindergarteners were being taught sexuality, saying, “I understand there are 1 in 4 Americans, if you look at these polls, that think that people in kindergarten should be taught sexuality.”
- Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Scarborough cited conservative writer Bari Weiss to suggest the feminist movement was too busy “policing our ability to say the word woman” to protect reproductive rights.
- In a February segment on a San Francisco school board recall, Scarborough acknowledged that critical race theory was not being taught in schools, yet nevertheless lamented that “woke politics” hurt Democrats.
- On April 11, Scarborough ranted that “white woke leaders” are out of touch with people of color on crime, education, and “woke issues,” telling liberals to “get off of Twitter!”