Morning Joe points out that WSJ “hit piece” attacking Biden's acuity is contradicted by its on-the-record source, Kevin McCarthy

Joe Scarborough: “The editors saw that Kevin McCarthy had a habit of saying one thing in public, lying in public, and then privately telling his aides just the opposite, that Biden was sharp, that he was cogent, that he was substantive”

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Citation From the June 5, 2024, edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (HOST): All right, let's go to our top story this morning. The Wall Street Journal is out with a new piece entitled "Behind Closed Doors, Biden Shows Signs Of Slipping." The Journal says it spoke with both Republicans and Democrats who either participated in meetings with Biden or were briefed on them contemporaneously, but essentially only on-the-record Republican critics in the article. The one is former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The Journal writes, quote, “Last year, when Biden was negotiating with House Republicans to lift the debt ceiling, his demeanor and command of the details seemed to shift from one day to the next, according to then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy."

JOE SCARBOROUGH (HOST): By the way, they also quoted Mike Johnson, people around Mike Johnson, and admit that this was basically House Republicans whacking —

BRZEZINSKI: Why didn't they just ask Marjorie Taylor Greene to do that?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, exactly.

BRZEZINSKI: And Lauren Boebert.

SCARBOROUGH: It's really shocking, especially when you see what Kevin McCarthy has said repeatedly, publicly, and behind the scenes about Biden on those same days when they were negotiating.

BRZEZINSKI: The strong feelings you're seeing about this article comes also because the context of this race and these two candidates, it's interesting. That's all I'll say. Anyhow, that flies in the face of what McCarthy said about Biden's effectiveness in the past. From Politico last year, quote, “McCarthy mocked Biden's age and mental acuity in public —

SCARBOROUGH: In public, like like he did in this article.

BRZEZINSKI: — while privately telling allies that he found the president sharp and substantive in their conversations, a contradiction that left a deep impression on the White House." This from The New York Times: “Privately, Mr. McCarthy has told allies that he has found Mr. Biden to be mentally sharp in meetings." And this from The Hill: “'Very professional, very smart. Very tough at the same time,' McCarthy told reporters at the capitol of his talks with Biden."

SCARBOROUGH: You know, Willie, I could go on and on with things Kevin McCarthy and others have said about negotiating with Joe Biden. I could also talk about what the French delegation said when they were negotiating with him and what they told me and friends that I have in that French delegation who were part of those negotiations who said that Macron came out like, wow. OK. It's a lot tougher than we expected. And, actually, I think Macron sort of got his back up because Biden was pressing so hard. Can tell you the same thing about Middle Eastern leaders that I talked to. Nobody's saying he's not cogent, and some people are suggesting that he, you know, a bit too tough in negotiations — that the United States throws their weight around a little bit too much.

But what's — what I find so shocking about this article is they go to Kevin McCarthy as their main source and other House Republicans. The same House Republicans, Mike Johnson, who just there lied through his teeth repeatedly. Mike Johnson, who got to power based on the Big Lie, and they're using people around Johnson and Kevin McCarthy to do this Trump hit piece on Joe Biden.

But, again, here's the quote. Kevin McCarthy “mocked Biden's age and mental acuity in public" — this is from Politico last year — “while privately telling allies that in private, he found the president to be sharp and substantive." And I've talked to you about my meetings with the president over the past year, Willie, and I've talked to to Mike and Mika about it. And I said it in real time.

The guy — see both those guys right there? I've spent time with both of those guys privately. I've spent time with Biden and Trump privately. I've spent time with every House speaker over the past 30 years and Joe Biden. I'm not just — it's just not close.

If you want to talk about international affairs, if you want to talk about how to get bipartisan legislation, Joe Biden is light years ahead of all of them. And the fact that The Wall Street Journal knew these quotes were out there, that editors — I'm not looking at the reporter. People always blame the reporter. There are a line of editors behind every story that's done. The editors saw that Kevin McCarthy had a habit of saying one thing in public, lying in public, and then privately telling his aides just the opposite, that Biden was sharp, that he was cogent, that he was substantive.

And in the same meeting that Kevin McCarthy is now telling The Wall Street Journal, Biden was out of it, he went out and he told reporters after the meeting that the meeting was quote the best yet. We're making progress, and I'm going to be talking to Joe Biden every day. Very professional, very smart, very tough. I just don't — I don't even know what to say. I really don't even know what to say here.

WILLIE GEIST: Well, let's begin with the fact that Joe Biden is 81 years old. Donald Trump, by the way, will be 78 next week, so he's not much younger. So, yes, does he move a little slower and speak a little softer than he did 15 years ago when he was vice president, as former Speaker McCarthy says in the case?


BRZEZINSKI: Sure does.

GEIST: Sure does. Yeah.

I think most 81-year-olds do or most people are different than they were 15 years ago. This does have the feeling of Trump acolytes laundering their attacks through a reputable prestigious news organization in The Wall Street Journal.

Also, the point about notes, as Richard Haass would tell you, presidents use notes in meetings. That's not unusual. They might have a sheet. They might have a card in front of them with some points that they want to make. I would also point out, Donald Trump has a person who follows him with a printer to print things out for him so he can have hard copies, so he can read his notes and facts and lies often that he rattles off.

And then the other point to make is, will The Wall Street Journal have a piece about Donald Trump and his mental acuity? All you have to do is watch the 90 minutes of that Fox News interview over the weekend, and you could go through and do an entire series of articles on someone who doesn't seem to have it all together. Mike Barnicle, you're very plugged into the White House. What's the early reaction to this piece?

MIKE BARNICLE: You can't say it on the air. You just can't say it on the air what their reaction is, actually. But, you know, I am sort of actually embarrassed for The Wall Street Journal, with this piece. And there's one, at least to me and others, Richard, anyone who has spent any time at all, Joe, Mika, anybody who — you. Anybody who has spent any time at all with Joe Biden knows one thing about Joe Biden above all else. He's a talker. He's a talker. So here's the tell in this piece. “With Ukraine running out of munitions, the White House called together top lawmakers to discuss what it would take to get congressional funding along with the scope of border-security changes demanded by Republicans. The president moved so slowly around the Cabinet room to greet the nearly two dozen congressional leaders that it took about 10 minutes for the meeting to begin, some people who attended recalled." Two dozen people around the table, and it took him 10 minutes to go around. I'm amazed it didn't take him an hour. Everyone he meets, he has 10 minutes to talk to them about. Everyone.

So this was a classic, classic hit piece, probably ordered up by the 93-year-old, fifth-time-married Rupert Murdoch over the weekend. Probably, you know. But I mean, this piece is so tilted, so off the mark. Is he 81 years old? Yes. Is he a bit slower in terms of his reactions to some things? Probably. That I don't know. We don't know.

I do know, Richard, and you've talked to people, I'm sure, who have been with him in national security meetings. I've been with people who have been with him in the situation room where he literally goes around the globe on the chart in the situation room — I've never been in there, but electronically — and points out the weaknesses and the strengths of the United States' relationships with each and every country that he's talking about with no notes. With no notes. He's an 81-year-old president of the United States who gets up every day. He's got to deal with Bibi Netanyahu in the morning, Ukraine about 10 minutes later. His son is on trial. His son is an addict. It's on his mind all the time. This piece is outrageous.