Back in classic Hollywood, if Trump were the head of a studio, and Scarborough and Brzezinski were stars in one of his movies who had “fallen out of line” (which, at the time, could include anything from dating someone who hadn’t been approved by the studio to drinking too much), Trump would’ve reached out to one of the fan magazines or gossip columnists, with audiences in the millions, and planted a piece of information about their love life, their sexual inclinations, or something far less scandalous but equally damning: the idea, for example, that a star was desperate, or couldn’t get a job, or that suddenly no one wanted to cast her in a movie.
These “messages” were rarely explicit, but communicated in the kind of code (“I hear so-and-so’s wife has been spending an awful number of nights home alone”) that would suggest that this was just the beginning. Sometimes these stories would be true, sometimes they’d have a kernel of the truth, or sometimes they’d be blatantly false. But they worked as a signal to the star: You don’t control your life. The studio does.