Joe Scarborough: I was never pro-Trump

Via RCP, something fun in honor of Scarborough’s op-ed in WaPo today calling on the GOP to dump Trump. Can it be that we’ve already reached the stage of decline in Trumpmania where some of Trump’s boosters in the media feel obliged to claim they were never boosters at all? It’s August 10th. This sort of revisionist history isn’t supposed to begin until after the debates at the earliest. This ship isn’t sinking so quickly that the passengers have to run for the lifeboats already, is it?

I’m not a Trump supporter, Scarborough insists, because I never endorsed him. I backed Jeb Bush, then Kasich. And I criticized Trump sharply at times, like when he first proposed his worldwide ban on Muslims visiting the United States. Fair enough — that’s one part of this story. But Peter King’s not pulling the idea of Scarborough being sweet on Trump out of thin air. Remember this, from February?

[A]t NBCUniversal’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center, Scarborough’s relationship with the Republican presidential frontrunner has become a subject of frustration among staff, and an increasingly problematic issue for the network’s top brass.

In background discussions, NBC News and MSNBC journalists, reporters and staffers said there was widespread discomfort at the network over Scarborough’s friendship with Trump and his increasingly favorable coverage of the candidate.

“People don’t like that Joe is promoting Trump,” one MSNBC insider said. Others described Scarborough’s admiration for Trump as “over the top” and “unseemly.”

Scarborough objected to the sourcing on that story at the time but CNN stuck by its reporting. The morning after Trump’s big win in New Hampshire, Trump told Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in an interview, “It was great seeing you, and you guys have been supporters and I really appreciate it” before catching himself and saying, “Not necessarily supporters, but at least believers.” A week later, they hosted him in a townhall event that became infamous not just for its sycophancy but because hot mic audio emerged afterward of Trump marveling at how they had treated him as “almost like a legendary figure” in one segment of their morning show. “Just make us all look good” and “Nothing too hard, Mika,” he said to them during the townhall, with no dissent. Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik had attacked the townhall even before it happened for being an obvious quid pro quo, in his opinion, between a candidate and two hosts who had been “shilling” for him for months. The title of Zurawik’s column: “Trump to do town hall with his favorite media poodle.” After the event, Matt Taibbi took to describing Scarborough’s treatment of Trump as “Morning Blow.”

At some point thereafter, things went sour. By May, media outlets were reporting on a “feud” between Scarborough and Trump. Even so, as late as mid-April, with Ted Cruz trying to capitalize on his big win in Wisconsin to mount a comeback in the primaries, Scarborough was still helping Trump out by arguing implausibly that Cruz would be a bigger drag on Republican Senate candidates than Trump would. It’s true that Scarborough laid into him at times during the primaries, even declaring after Trump’s lame dodging of questions about David Duke in late February that his comments were “disqualifying” for a presidential contender. And yet this supposedly disqualified candidate was still invited back to “Morning Joe” for commentary many times thereafter, phoning into the show in late May despite reports of a “feud” having already appeared in the media. In late January, just a few days before Iowa went to caucus, Scarborough even refused to rule out becoming Trump’s VP when Hugh Hewitt asked him about it, with Joe theorizing that he had a patriotic duty to do anything that might help break the Democratic stranglehold on government.

So choose your own term: If it’s unfair to describe Morning Joe as a “supporter” because he never formally endorsed, surely “enabler” isn’t too strong a description. And surely we can agree that a pro forma endorsement of Trump by Scarborough wouldn’t have been nearly as valuable to Trump as the many chummy appearances Trump enjoyed on Joe’s show sans formal endorsement between June 2015 and May 2016. Trump’s primary strategy was all about earned media; he was going to beat the professional pols and their fancy ground games by reaching Republican voters directly, with ubiquitous media coverage. Scarborough played his part and then some, even after he’d deemed Trump unfit for office, but rather than own it he’s taking an attitude with Peter King here for having an inconveniently long memory. Oh well. Gonna be a lot of this from a lot of people in media if the trajectory of the race doesn’t change. Although Hannity at least will probably wait until after Election Day to start revising.

Jazz Shaw Jul 06, 2022 9:01 AM ET