A terrific and funny little drama played out on the air and the internet Wednesday, as Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski got called out for relentlessly promoting Donald Trump by... Donald Trump. After defensively attempting some on-air damage control, the issue spilled over into a Twitter feud with CNN.
On the heels of his massive win in the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump called in to MSNBC's Morning Joe to stir up a little bit of trouble by delivering what he must have thought was a compliment. Toward the end of the interview, Trump thanked Scarborough and Brzezinski for being "supporters," and even though Trump quickly disclaimed the praise, it sent Brzezinski and Scarborough into a comical fit of defensive "clarification."
"It was great seeing you, you guys have been supporters and I appreciate it," Trump said, quickly adding "And not necessarily supporters but at least believers."
That bit of backpedaling wasn't quite enough for the hosts, who raced away from the "supporters" label, but seemed to accept the "believers" descriptor:
Scarborough: Well, I will tell you what when you say "supported" you're talking about how actually -- you're talking about Bob (Costa), Mika, myself, also Halperin, Willie and those of us around the table. There were a handful of people who for six months have been saying what happened last night could happen, and the rest of the media world has been mocking and ridiculing what he's done.
Brzezinski: Donald and I have not agreed on things ever since we started talking about pageants on "Morning Joe," so it's not like Donald and I have the same worldview. You guys might in some ways. But we knew that he could do this from the get-go. So I think the sense is that we believed that his talents actually could follow through and translate into something, while everyone else underestimated him.
That wasn't the end of it, though, because the taint of Trump supporterdom is so great that they continued to sprint away from it after he hung up,
Scarborough: I've heard advocacy from people before, or support. Donald said support. It's not support.
Brzezinski: Somebody yelled at you for being in the tank.
Scarborough: Governor Sununu, in fact. And I would dare say that I'm the only person who had hung up on Donald Trump on live television. And we've been critical of his approach towards Muslims, we said he went too far on John McCain.
Brzezinski: I would haven't used the word he used the other night.
Scarborough: Same thing there. But at the same time, our job, and Bob in part your job, is to be an analyst and say, whether we support him or not, whether we're going to vote for him or not, whether we agree with him or not, our job is to talk about how this race is going to look.
For the record, I believed Trump could win before anyone else did (for vastly different reasons), and yet have still managed to mock and ridicule what he has done. The two are not mutually exclusive. What's stunning about their "defense" is that it ignores the degree to which their "belief" in Trump may have fueled his success. They're certainly not alone in this regard, not even just at MSNBC, but at a certain point that was passed long ago, "analysis" crosses the line into promotion.
The plot thickened when CNN reported that Scarborough and Brzezinski visited Trump in his hotel room Tuesday night, sparking a Twitter feud between Scarborough and Dylan Byers, who contributed to the reporting. Most amazingly, though, MSNBC put its own reputation on the line to release an official statement on the matter that conspicuously did not deny the hotel room visit:
STATEMENT ATTRIBUTABLE TO AN MSNBC SPOKESPERSON
Wed Feb 10, 2016 2:25 PM EST
CNN's media reporter, Dylan Byers, is implying that Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski watched election returns with Donald Trump last night in New Hampshire. That is not true.
The Morning Joe hosts instead did what anchors are supposed to do -- they interviewed the candidate's senior staff to get background information on their strategy in New Hampshire, and on their campaign's plans moving forward in South Carolina. The staff then invited the hosts to get Mr. Trump's reaction to the victory. That discussion lasted less than five minutes. Other networks were allowed interviews as well.
It should be noted that Morning Joe is off to a great start in this election year. In January, the show had 28% more viewers than CNN's morning show last month. And thus far in February, more people are watching Morning Joe than CNN.
This is utter horseshit on so many levels, you need an elevator to hit them all. First of all, this is a news organization, but instead of making the subjects available for questions, or releasing a statement of their own, or even releasing a statement with a person's name on it, they release a statement that is essentially blind-quoting themselves to refute reporting by actual reporters with names.
But reading between the lines, they're saying Joe and Mika did visit Trump's hotel room, but they were working! Here's what I look forward to: someone pointing out where all that background reporting ended up, or when and how they reported Trump's reaction.