Following widespread backlash, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski apologized early Friday morning for calling Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “wannabe dictator’s butt boy” earlier in the week during a segment of the news show “Morning Joe.”
Brzezinski, who had attempted to apologize for her remarks in a tweet, said on live TV that the term was “vulgar” and told viewers she was “really, really sorry” she used it.
“Please allow me to say this face-to-face: The term is crass and offensive, and I apologize to everyone, especially the LGBTQ community, and to my colleagues for using it,” Brzezinski said on the air.
“It was a mistake. My father would have found it so unbecoming and disrespectful, and he would have told me,” she said about her late father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a diplomat and national security adviser. “I will work hard to be better, but I just wanted to say, on camera, looking the viewer straight in the eye: I am really, really sorry.”
Brzezinski did not mention Pompeo in her on-air apology.
MSNBC representatives have declined to comment.
Brzezinski made the homophobic and vulgar remark on the show Wednesday after a less-than-impassioned response from Pompeo about the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Pompeo had evaded questions in a “Fox & Friends” interview about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the killing.
“I understand that Donald Trump doesn’t care,” Brzezinski said to her co-host, Joe Scarborough. Scarborough had just spoken to a panel that included Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who described Trump’s motivation to ignore the evidence against the crown prince as financially based.
“But why doesn’t Mike Pompeo care right now? Are the pathetic deflections that we just heard when he appeared on ‘Fox & Friends’ — is that a patriot speaking?” Brzezinski continued. “Or a wannabe dictator’s butt boy? I’m dead serious. I’m asking: Are these the words of a patriot?”
That same morning, Brzezinski went on Twitter, calling her remarks a “SUPER BAD choice of words.”
Still, it triggered an instant and intense backlash — including criticism from President Trump, who argued that had she been a conservative, she would have been “banned permanently from television.” Trump has been known to lash out at Brzezinski. Last year, the president viciously attacked her on Twitter, calling her “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and claiming she had recently had plastic surgery.
Trump also praised Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, for “having the courage to take this horrible issue on.”
Grenell, who is openly gay, also called on Brzezinski to apologize, saying her comment was “totally unacceptable & deeply disturbing. Sexualizing gay people this way is designed to control them & minimize our worth.”
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation told The Washington Post that the organization had reached out to MSNBC about the comment as well.
However, Brzezinski had at least one high-profile supporter: Fox News host Sean Hannity, who acknowledged that she had used a “pretty bad choice of words” but then defended her apology.
“I’m not the thought police. I’m not the speech police,” he said. “And something they would never do for a Fox opinion host is … stand up when people try to boycott or stand up when people call for firings. I believe she’s probably sincere in her apology.”
“People do want to destroy her career over this,” he added. “This is a problem we have in all of media.”
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.