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Howard Kurtz's Media Notes
After serving as an intern at Washington's WUSA and WRC, Brzezinski launched her career at the Fox affiliate in Hartford, Conn., where she met her future husband, television reporter James Hoffer. Brzezinski joined CBS in 1997, left to briefly co-anchor an MSNBC afternoon show with Ashleigh Banfield, and then returned to CBS, where she broadcast live from Ground Zero on the day of the 9/11 attacks. Five years later, she had a fat new contract to take over the Sunday night news and contribute to "60 Minutes," and made a demo tape as part of a possible new anchor team. But she and other correspondents were dropped after a new management team hired Katie Couric for the anchor job.
Feeling "sort of battered" after a year of job hunting, Brzezinski took a freelance job at MSNBC that consisted of doing four 30-second news cut-ins every evening. She spent much of the time talking by phone with her daughters, now 10 and 12, at their home in New York's Westchester County, discussing homework or listening to them play piano. Ten seconds before air time, she would put down the phone, read the headlines and say, "Now back to 'Scarborough Country,' " lowering her voice to make the title sound ironic.
When Scarborough, who was based in Florida, came to the Secaucus, N.J., studio to try out for the morning slot, he asked Brzezinski if she was poking fun at the program. "I can't make fun of your show because I've never seen the show," she replied. But as they talked, something clicked.
"I could tell she was not a talking head," Scarborough says. "She wasn't like anyone I'd met in television news. She didn't take herself too seriously and was obviously very quick on her feet."
Scarborough called MSNBC boss Phil Griffin and said he wanted Brzezinski on the morning show. But there was resistance. Management wanted either a traditional newsman or a young news reader. "Nobody saw it," Scarborough says.
He kept pushing, and Brzezinski got her tryout. As the presidential election unfolded, "Morning Joe" gained traction as a kind of political salon, with long segments built around pundits and campaign aides. "No cooking, no lingerie, no missing girls," Brzezinski boasts.
One occasional guest was her dad, who had endorsed Obama. "I think she felt a little awkward about it," the former White House adviser says. "I once corrected something she said about me, and she said, 'Oh, here I am, 10 years old again.' "
Obama Adulation Watch
"You could call it 'Obamalot.' . . . Barack and Michelle Obama bear superficial similarities to John and Jacqueline Kennedy of the 1960s 'Camelot' White House -- charisma, vigor, her fondness for sheath dresses, for instance." -- Thursday's USA Today.