That’s the most shocking allegation from this morning’s Joe-n-Mika “Donald Trump is not well” op-ed. Well, second-most shocking. Brzezinski admitting she had a chin tuck is the big headline, I think we can all agree.
The president’s unhealthy obsession with our show has been in the public record for months, and we are seldom surprised by his posting nasty tweets about us. During the campaign, the Republican nominee called Mika “neurotic” and promised to attack us personally after the campaign ended. This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.
Surprisingly, Trump admits that he talked to Scarborough about an unflattering Enquirer article. What he doesn’t admit is that there was extortion involved:
Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
I have proof of blackmail attempts by top White House deputies, Scarborough insists. Will he produce it?
Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months. https://t.co/TZWiElo6Gs
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) June 30, 2017
Jay Caruso of Red State contacted Scarborough to ask if anyone else besides him and Mika knew of the blackmail threat at the time. Yep, said Scarborough:
“NBC execs knew in real time about the calls and who made them to me. That’s why Mark Kornblau wrote about contemporaneous texts. I showed him and executives as they were coming in to keep them advised.”
Kornblau, a spokesman for NBC, appeared to confirm that in a tweet today. Hmmmm.
Might Scar-zinski have approached Trump to try to get an Enquirer piece quashed, knowing the sort of influence Trump has over that paper? The squabble reminded me of this Daily Beast piece from May about how successful Joe and Mika were at keeping rumors of their relationship out of the papers until this year. A choice anecdote:
In one such case in November 2013, shortly after Scarborough’s divorce from his second wife was finalized (and three years before Brzezinski’s official split from her own spouse), The New York Post’s Richard Johnson was preparing to declare them an item.
According to sources familiar with the situation, a distraught Brzezinski reached out to then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes —like Johnson, a vassal in the Murdoch media empire—and tearfully asked Ailes, with whom she was friendly, to intervene with the gossip columnist, arguing that their respective children would be hurt by such publicity.
If they sought Trump out for help with the Enquirer, it allegedly wouldn’t be the first time they’ve reached out to a prominent right-wing figure to try to pressure a right-wing paper into not publishing a “negative article” about them. On the other hand, knowing how sensitive Joe and Mika were about having their relationship outed, the White House might have been tempted to try to use that as leverage over them to get them to tone down their harsh criticism of Trump. Remember this tweet from last August? Trump knew before the public did that something was going on. And it wouldn’t be the first time either that Team Trump has, seemingly, used the Enquirer to attack a political opponent. It was the Enquirer, after all, that published the hit pieces on Ted Cruz last spring implying that he had had affairs with women in Washington and suggesting that his father Rafael was, uh, somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination. Cruz himself accused Trump of planting those stories. If that’s true, it’s no great stretch to think Team Trump might have threatened to hand the dirt they had on Joe and Mika to the Enquirer unless “Morning Joe” became a Trump cheerleading squad again.
Sean Spicer says he’s not aware of any blackmail threats made against Scarborough and the Enquirer naturally denies everything. Here’s Scar-zinski recounting what happened in their own words. Maybe Joe should have paid closer attention to the lyrics of “The Snake” when Trump was reciting it every day on the campaign trail, back when “Morning Joe” really was something of a Trump cheerleading squad.
Update: The Daily Beast claims that Jared Kushner is one of the White House aides who allegedly spoke to Scarborough about the Enquirer piece. But was it blackmail or just a friendly conversation?
According to these officials, Kushner and Scarborough had spoken “many weeks ago” regarding a then upcoming negative Enquirer article on Scarborough and Brzezinski. Scarborough had “calmly sought” advice from Kushner, who “recommended he speak with the president.”
But White House sources’ accounts of the conversation differed from Scarborough’s description and suggestions of more sinister interactions. No hostile threat or attempt at blackmail was made, according to these officials.
“This is getting blown up on Twitter and elsewhere as some kind of blackmail operation,” one of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, said. “The truth is far more mundane. In this case, Joe was talking to Jared about his [bad] relationship with the president and a Enquirer hit piece he was uneasy about.”