Over the past week, much has been made of the chummy relationship between MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald J. Trump. While regular viewers of Morning Joe were already aware that the program had basically become Morning Trump since last summer, casual observers were finally smacked in the face with just how inappropriate Trump and Joe’s bromance really is. especially for the network.
Last week, CNN media reporter Dylan Byers wrote about Joe and co-host Mika Brzezinski spending Tuesday night in Trump’s hotel room while the New Hampshire primary results came in. The story came on the heels of Trump appearing on Morning Joe the following day and thanking Joe and Mika for being “supporters” and saying how great it was seeing them the previous evening. Scarborough railed against Byers’ story and eventually MSNBC released a statement defending the hosts, claiming they only met with Trump for five minutes for a follow-up interview, essentially proving Byers right.
Since then, Mediaite uncovered video of Scarborough bragging to an audience and Peggy Noonan that he has given Trump debate tips and political hints over the course of his campaign. Byers also pointed out in another story that Joe and Mika maintain close friendships with The Donald, and Scarborough regularly spends weekends and vacations at Trump’s private estate in Florida.
During Sunday’s broadcast of CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter and Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik discussed the Trump/Joe relationship and whether MSNBC needed to step in and do something. After playing the Scarborough/Noonan clip, Stelter asked Zurawik his thoughts, while also pointing out that Fox hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity brag about their Trump friendships.
The Sun writer immediately went to town on Scarborough, highlighting that Joe is “unashamed” of how in the tank he is for Trump, and that it is killing MSNBC’s credibility.
“Listen, even somebody like a morning show host plays a role, at least a quasi-journalistic role — I’d argue it’s journalistic — plays a role in setting the parameters of the national conversation around these candidates. You shouldn’t be so involved with them that you’re going down and giving them tips. I love the video you just showed. I’m so happy it got played because it shows how unashamed Scarborough is, how proud he is of the fact that he’s in the tank for him.
Back in August, I wrote about this relationship and it was unbelievable, because it was just before the Alabama open-air rally that Trump was going to hold. And Scarborough was talking about Trump letting his brother, who I guess lives in Florida, on his plane when it landed in Mobile. And then the next day, he was on Facebook saying how great it was that Trump let him on the plane, and then he started talking rapturously about what a great candidate this is and it’s the future of American politics.
He doesn’t even know how damning that is to the credibility of MSNBC that almost every morning this guy gets out and behaves that way. And hey, what about the executives at MSNBC that don’t call him in and say stop it? What’s going on with that? This is outrageous.”
Stelter followed up by saying that he asked for a new comment from MSNBC regarding the growing controversy over the Joe’s Trump coverage, but hadn’t received anything yet. However, as he pointed out, when Byers’ first piece went up, Scarborough responded by touting his show’s ratings, which is a “very Trumpian thing to do,” according to Stelter. He ended by saying he doesn’t think Scarborough is alone among media members in terms of giving Trump advice, citing O’Reilly specifically.
While Joe is going to try to spin this as sour grapes from a jealous rival because he’s beating their morning show, it does put MSNBC and NBC News in a precarious position. It isn’t just CNN and some media critics that are noticing this. As Stelter said on Sunday, the term ‘Morning Trump’ has been bandied about all over social media. If executives are even slightly concerned about presenting, at least, the appearance of journalistic credibility, they have to nip this in the bud.
Below is video of the segment, courtesy of Media Matters: