Memo to politicians: When the “Morning Joe” hosts ask a question about Muslims, be ready with a direct answer. Otherwise, you apparently won’t be on the show very long.
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough cut short an interview with Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday after he refused four times to say whether he agrees with Donald Trump’s declaration Wednesday night that “Islam hates us.” Scott, a Republican, has not endorsed a presidential candidate but is friendly with Trump. And his unwillingness to back Marco Rubio, his state’s junior U.S. senator, is undeniably a slight.
Brzezinski, in particular, seemed irked by Scott’s evasiveness. She apologized to Scarborough, a former congressman of Florida, for the awkwardness of the exchange with his longtime friend but made clear that she wouldn’t proceed if Scott continued to duck.
This was the final attempt to get a straight answer:
BRZEZINSKI: Can you answer the question or should we scoot?
SCOTT: Well, I can tell you that, you know, I’m glad everbody’s in Florida. You know, we’re doing well here. The debate’s going to be fun tonight. I hope they talk about jobs. It’s the most important issue.
BRZEZINSKI: Governor Rick Scott, thanks for being on. We will, uh, move on now. Thanks. “Morning Joe” will be right back.
The truncated interview with Scott recalled a December episode in which Scarborough took an impromptu commercial break during a Trump appearance in which the GOP front-runner dodged questions about his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.
In fact, everything about Scott’s non-response responses was incredibly Trump-like. He didn’t fully embrace a bigoted remark but also refused to reject it — ostensibly because he didn’t want to alienate people who agree with it. This is what Trump does when his supporters claim that President Obama is a secret Muslim, for example. He won’t say outright that he agrees, but he won’t shoot down the idea, either. He very much, very conspicuously, leaves it as an open possibility.
One of the media’s great fears in this election season is that Trump might not be one of a kind but rather the first of his kind — that the success of his style might influence other politicians to behave the same way. Scott’s performance Thursday suggests the Trump effect is in motion.
If that’s the case, it will be up to other journalists to follow Scarborough and Brzezinski’s example and not allow them to have it both ways.