New York Magazine published an op-ed from venerable leftist writer Frank Rich Tuesday in which Rich calls on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough to release texts and phone records he claims to have from “top aides” in the Trump administration.
The call comes after engaged MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough were the butt of a series of accusatory tweets by President Donald Trump. A final tweet by the president claimed that Scarborough had contacted him to stop a soon-to-be published National Enquirer story on Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship.
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 replied that he had texts and phone records that could disprove this narrative.
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
Trump’s version of events got a boost in the pages in which Rich’s Tuesday op-ed appeared in New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer, when NBC contributor Gabe Sherman wrote that three sources told him Scarborough had indeed negociated with the President’s son-in-law and confidant Jared Kushner to try to stop the National Enquirer story.
Rich’s op-ed plays up the conspiratorial narrative, calling the president’s supremely well-covered tweet “an alleged blackmail effort by Trump and/or Jared Kushner to use the threat of a National Enquirer expose on Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough as a cudgel to win favorable Trump coverage on ‘Morning Joe.'”
Rich then partially blames Scarborough for Trump’s election and calls on him to release whatever evidence he has as recompense, writing, “It is incumbent on him and MSNBC to release that evidence now, particularly given the prominent role “Morning Joe” played in boosting Trump’s candidacy when it counted most, in the early stages of the campaign.”
Trump’s tweet of an animated image putting CNN’s logo over the face of a man Trump once “body-slammed” in a World Wrestling Entertainment skit, meanwhile, takes on deeply sinister implications in Rich’s writing. “Nor is it a novelty that the imagery in a Trump tweet was lifted from a post by an alt-right thug known for anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and homophobia,” he argues.
Rich notably uses the word “thug,” derived from a 19th-Century band of Indian cultist criminals who may have killed upwards of half a million people, and almost always used today to describe violent criminals, to describe an anonymous Reddit troll account called “HanAssholeSolo.” The mainstream media and left-wing non-profits have spent significant effort scouring that and other Reddit users’ posts after it was suggested the CNN wrestling animation Trump used in his tweet may first have been posted there.
The same confusion of words on anonymous message boards and edited professional wrestling animations with “violence” continues as Rich writes:
The escalating violence of his tweets at a time when his and the GOP’s entire agenda is on life-support makes you wonder if a complete breakdown is arriving sooner than I and others have thought. The wrestling tweet is batshit crazy, comparable to a drunk Nixon talking to the pictures on the White House walls during his final meltdown.
Rich’s conclusion that the president is approaching a “complete breakdown” is punctuated by his saying, “[I]f there’s anything we know about Trump, it’s that he is irrational, he listens to no one except talking heads on Fox News, and that he’s a liar.”
Rich argues against seeing the tweets as a “distraction,” saying they “are news in themselves.” Rich then turns not on Trump himself, but Trump’s base, his disdain for whom who makes little effort to conceal. “Trump’s tweets aren’t aimed at news consumers,” he writes, despite consistent survey data showing Trump supporters and Republicans are as well if not better informed than Democrats about current events and policy issues.
“The base will keep the faith no matter what outrages he commits online or in the Oval Office,” Rich goes on, comparing Trump’s stubbornly loyal base to the roughly one in four Americans who more than four decades ago formed ” Richard Nixon’s populist right-wing base, in many ways analogous to Trump’s and similar in size as a percentage of the populace, remained loyal right through his resignation.”