The hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday made the startling allegation that senior White House officials threatened them with a negative story in the National Enquirer unless they called President Trump and apologized.
Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who are engaged to be married, revealed the alleged threat in an op-ed in The Washington Post that was published the morning after Trump attacked Brzezinski in two widely condemned tweets.
"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," they wrote.
Brzezinski and Scarborough detailed the alleged blackmail attempt during Friday's episode of "Morning Joe."
“We got a call that, hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys, and it was, Donald is friends with — the president is friends with — the guy that runs the National Enquirer,” Scarborough said.
Scarborough said “three people at the top of the administration” were calling him about the story the tabloid was preparing.
“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,” he said.
“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.'”
Brzezinski said the National Enquirer was “threatening” her children at the time with phone calls.
“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.’”
“Our response was screw it, just let them run it,” she said.
Scarborough added that Trump would call him during his 2016 presidential campaign to brag about stories that were appearing in the Enquirer about his Republican opponents.
Trump was the recipient of the National Enquirer's first-ever political endorsement during his campaign last year. In an interview published in The New Yorker this week, Enquirer owner David Pecker defended his tabloid's largely positive coverage of the president, saying, "The guy's a personal friend of mine."
Trump on Twitter said Scarborough had, in fact, called him and asked for him to kill a National Enquirer story but that he "said no!”
Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
Scarborough fired back minutes later, calling Trump’s tweet a “lie” and claiming he has proof that the White House calls happened.
Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months. https://t.co/TZWiElo6Gs— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) June 30, 2017
Why do you keep lying about things that are so easily disproven? What is wrong with you? https://t.co/aAoUj5HYZS— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) June 30, 2017
The feud between the “Morning Joe” co-hosts and the president has been boiling for months, with the Scarborough and Brzezinksi berating and mocking Trump routinely on their broadcasts. Trump has fired back, saying he doesn't watch the show.
But the clash reached a new level on Thursday when Trump mocked Scarborough and Brzezinski on Twitter.
"I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!" Trump tweeted.
Lawmakers denounced the attack on Brzezinski’s appearance, with some Republicans calling it “beneath the dignity of the office.” Democrats accused Trump of misogyny, with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) calling the attacks “heinous and vile.”
In their op-ed, the “Morning Joe” hosts said Brzezinski “did have a little skin under her chin tweaked” when Trump saw her at his Mar-a-Lago resort, “but this was hardly a state secret."
"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. "Mika has never had a face-lift. If she had, it would be evident to anyone watching 'Morning Joe' on their high-definition TV."
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered an aggressive defense of the president's tweets during a combative press briefing on Thursday.
“He's not going to sit back and be attacked by the liberal media, Hollywood elites — and when they hit him, he's going to hit back,” she said.
“This is a president who fights fire with fire.”