The morning after being viciously attacked by President Trump on Twitter, MSNBC co-host Mika Brzezinski said she wasn’t exactly reeling as a result of the president’s vulgar and deeply personal social-media assault.
“I’m fine,” she said. “My family brought me up really tough. This is absolutely nothing for me personally. But I am very concerned about what this once again reveals about the president of the United States. It’s strange.”
She added, “It does worry me about the country.”
Her co-host, Joe Scarborough, said he and Brzezinski had heard from numerous friends and relatives since the president’s attack.
“We had so many people saying, ‘Hey, hope you’re okay,’ ” he said Friday. “. . . We’re okay. The country is not.”
Trump lashed out at the MSNBC co-hosts just after their show Thursday morning, calling Brzezinski “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and claiming she “was bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she and Scarborough came to Mar-a-Lago — the president’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla. — three nights in a row late last year.
Trump also referred to Scarborough as “Psycho Joe” in his tweets, which caused an immediate and sustained uproar.
Brzezinski and Scarborough were scheduled to start a vacation Thursday afternoon but delayed it to discuss the president’s remarks.
They also authored an op-ed for The Washington Post, writing: “President Trump launched personal attacks against us Thursday, but our concerns about his unmoored behavior go far beyond the personal. America’s leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president. We have our doubts, but we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show, ‘Morning Joe.’ ”
Brzezinski and Scarborough also levied a serious charge, both in their op-ed and on MSNBC on Friday: that the White House threatened a negative tabloid story about them unless they asked Trump — who is friendly with the National Enquirer’s publisher, David Pecker — to have the story killed.
“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,” they wrote. “We ignored their desperate pleas.”
“That’s blackmail,” said “Morning Joe” team member Donnie Deutsch.
In a statement Friday, the chief content officer at American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer, said the company had “accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute.”
But Dylan Howard, an American Media vice president, said, “We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions.”
Trump took to Twitter on Friday morning and called the claim “FAKE NEWS” — prompting Scarborough to accuse the president of “yet another lie.”
In their op-ed, the MSNBC hosts fact-checked the president’s Thursday tweets, writing that they contained “a flurry of falsehoods.”
Mr. Trump claims that we asked to join him at Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row. That is false. He also claimed that he refused to see us. That is laughable.The president-elect invited us both to dinner on Dec. 30. Joe attended because Mika did not want to go. After listening to the president-elect talk about his foreign policy plans, Joe was asked by a disappointed Mr. Trump the next day if Mika could also visit Mar-a-Lago that night. She reluctantly agreed to go. After we arrived, the president-elect pulled us into his family’s living quarters with his wife, Melania, where we had a pleasant conversation. We politely declined his repeated invitations to attend a New Year’s Eve party, and we were back in our car within 15 minutes.
“It was amazing how many lies he packed into two tweets,” Brzezinski said Friday.
Of Trump’s claim that Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a facelift,” she and Scarborough wrote in their op-ed: “That is also a lie.”
“Putting aside Mr. Trump’s never-ending obsession with women’s blood, Mika and her face were perfectly intact, as pictures from that night reveal,” they wrote. “And though it is no one’s business, the president’s petulant personal attack against yet another woman’s looks compels us to report that Mika has never had a facelift. If she had, it would be evident to anyone watching ‘Morning Joe’ on their high-definition TV. She did have a little skin under her chin tweaked, but this was hardly a state secret.”
Noting what they called the president’s “continued mistreatment of women,” Brzezinski and Scarborough added: “It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children.”
Scarborough said Friday on MSNBC that Trump “attacks women, he fears women,” and accused the president of having a “really disturbing obsession with Mika.”
Trump’s tweets drew condemnation from members of both political parties, with more than three dozen Republicans and Democrats in Congress expressing disgust on Twitter, where they called Trump’s remarks “unpresidential,” “vile, sexist and unbecoming of an American leader,” “divisive,” “unhinged and shameful” and “amazingly graceless.”
“Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday. “What we’re trying to do around here is improve the civility and tone of the debate, and this obviously does not do that.”
The White House came to Trump’s defense Thursday, saying that Brzezinski and Scarborough have said far worse things about the president and his staff.
“Look, I don’t think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute, and sit back,” deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “Look, the American people elected a fighter. . . . They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump.”
Thursday morning, Brzezinski had said on her show that if someone took over NBC and acted as Trump has — “tweeting wildly about people’s appearances, bullying people, talking about people in the competition, lying every day, undermining his managers” — that “there would be concern that perhaps the person who runs the company is out of his mind.”
Sanders pointed to such rhetoric in her defense of Trump. “The things that this show has called him — and not just him but numerous members of his staff, including myself and many others,” Sanders said. “It’s kind of like we’re living in the Twilight Zone. They do this day after day after day, and then the president responds and defends himself and everybody is appalled and blown away.”
Trump once had a chummy relationship with “Morning Joe,” regularly calling in for lengthy interviews, referring to Brzezinski and Scarborough as “supporters” and offering to officiate at their wedding.
But the hosts have become increasingly critical. For months, Brzezinski has raised questions about the president’s psychological health, calling him “possibly unfit mentally” and saying that he is “such a narcissist, it’s possible that he is mentally ill in a way.”
In their op-ed, the co-hosts wrote:
We have known Mr. Trump for more than a decade and have some fond memories of our relationship together. But that hasn’t stopped us from criticizing his abhorrent behavior or worrying about his fitness. During the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Joe often listened to Trump staff members complain about their boss’s erratic behavior, including a top campaign official who was as close to the Republican candidate as anyone.We, too, have noticed a change in his behavior over the past few years. Perhaps that is why we were neither shocked nor insulted by the president’s personal attack. The Donald Trump we knew before the campaign was a flawed character but one who still seemed capable of keeping his worst instincts in check.
They also had a suggestion for Trump, writing that his “unhealthy obsession with ‘Morning Joe’ does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to ‘Fox & Friends.’ ”
The Post op-ed and Friday-morning MSNBC segment were Brzezinski’s first words on the matter — but not her first response to the attack.
Less than half an hour after Trump fired off the tweets, Brzezinski responded on the same social-media platform, tweeting a photo of a Cheerios cereal box that said: “Made for Little Hands.”
The message seemed to be aimed at mocking the size of the president’s hands — a sensitive topic for Trump that has dogged him for decades and even came up during a GOP presidential debate.
Paul Farhi and Abby Phillip contributed to this report, which has been updated.