Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough Disclose That Donald Trump Has Been Trying to Blackmail Them

[Content Note: Extortion; threats; misogyny; use of disablist language.]

Following Donald Trump's tweeted attack on Mika Brzezinski yesterday, Brzezinski and her Morning Joe co-host (and fiancee) Joe Scarborough penned an op-ed for the Washington Post in which they disclosed in passing: "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. We ignored their desperate pleas."

That sounds an awful lot like attempted blackmail — and, during their broadcast this morning, co-anchor Willie Geist asked them to talk about what happened. The additional details they provided are chilling.

BRZEZINSKI: —approval ratings, and very few accomplishments. He's not in reality.

GEIST: There's never been any question that he requires daily, if not hourly, affirmation. I want to ask you guys about something else you published in the Washington Post piece this morning. It's something again we've talked about in private; you've never talked about it on television, but I'm already getting a lot of questions about it, so I want to give you the chance to explain. I'll just read a quote: "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. We ignored their desperate pleas." What exactly happened there, to the extent you're comfortable talking about it?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean, I'm comfortable talking— I mean, I think we have to talk about it now, because it explains the relationship and his really strange obsession with this show and, in particular, it's a really disturbing obsession with Mika. Ummmmmm, we got a call that, 'Hey, the National Enquirer is gonna run a negative story against you guys,' and it was— You know, Donald is friends with, the president is friends with the guy that runs the National Enquirer. And they said, 'If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story.'

I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me, and the response was like: 'Are you kidding me? I don't know what they have. Run a story. I'm not gonna do it.' The calls kept coming, and kept coming, and they were like, 'Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe — just pick up the phone and call him!'

[Someone offscreen says: "It's blackmail!"]

BRZEZINSKI: And let me explain what they were threatening: They were calling my children. They were calling close friends—

SCARBOROUGH: You're talking about the National Enquirer.

BRZEZINSKI: —and they were pinning the story on my ex-husband, who would absolutely never do that, so I knew immediately it was a lie and that they had nothing. And these calls persisted for quite some time, and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House, where they said, 'Oh, this could go away.'

GEIST: So, I just want to be very clear here: The National Enquirer is harassing your children, your daughters—


GEIST: —who are teenagers—

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. And it's, you know—

GEIST: —and then, Joe, in turn, is getting calls from the White House—

BRZEZINSKI: Saying call Donald and apologize.

SCARBOROUGH: By the way, they're also, they're also— I was at Mika's house for a few minutes, and came out, and there was a guy in a van that was just staked out there, watching. It was clear that he was from a tabloid, and he said— He started asking questions. And then, after all of this started happening, that's when we started getting calls from the White House saying, 'If you call— You need to call the president, and—'


BRZEZINSKI: And our response, talking to my ex-husband, talking to Joe, talking to my kids, was: Screw it. Let 'em run it. Just go ahead and run it. We're not calling. We're not calling.
Later in the segment, one of the panelists, an older white man whose name I don't know Donny Deutsch [thanks, SKM!], observes: "What you just said is one of the most frightening things I've ever heard — basically that this story was gonna run unless you groveled to the president, and then the president will kill the story." And Geist adds: "But not just the story won't run, but we will stop harassing you. We'll have the National Enquirer stop harassing your children, if you grovel to the president of the United States."

This is utterly appalling. It's quite possibly criminal, and undoubtedly unethical.

It is also part of a pattern of Trump threatening and harassing journalists that dates back decades, as I detailed in a piece for the Globe and Mail:
After a 1990 interview with Connie Chung that didn't go the way Mr. Trump might have hoped, he unleashed on Ms. Chung during a subsequent interview with Joan Rivers, calling Ms. Chung "a disaster" and saying she was "like a little child. I mean this girl – this woman – has less talent than anyone I know of."

He went on to disturbingly recount that, when Ms. Chung sent him roses after the interview, "I cut 'em up and sent 'em back. I sent her back the stems. Actually, I did. I sent her back the stems, but I kept the top."

This is, to put it mildly, wildly inappropriate behaviour in any context, but it is utterly unrecognizable as the action of a person with a professional grudge and entirely comports instead with the impulse of an abusive spurned lover.
Donald Trump is scary, because he has no brakes on his worst instincts, is impulsive and cruel, has an extraordinary amount of power, and seemingly no one who is willing to offer a single check on his behavior, no matter how awful it gets.

Perhaps now that he's launched such a targeted and breathtakingly inappropriate attack on two members of the media, one of whom is a former Republican Congressman, both the media and the Republican Party will start taking more seriously their responsibility to hold this president to account.

I sure as fuck hope so.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus