MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough reportedly approached the White House seeking help in preventing a story about his affair with co-host Mika Brzezinski from being published in the National Enquirer — a story that differs from his account spelled out in a Washington Post oped published on Friday.
According to an MSNBC journalist, Scarborough contacted Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner ahead of the story’s publication earlier this month.
Gabriel Sherman, who writes for MSNBC and NBC, wrote in New York Magazine on Friday that three anonymous sources told him what happened between the White House, Scarborough, and Brzezinski.
“In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story,” Sherman wrote.
“Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story,” Sherman wrote. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story on June 5, headlined, “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”
Trump tweeted on Friday that Scarborough called him to see if the story could be spiked and that he declined the request.
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
“Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time,” Trump tweeted. “FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Beast, using anonymous officials, revealed a more nuanced account of the days leading up to the tabloid article’s publication:
The Morning Joe co-hosts declined to name the multiple White House officials involved in this bizarre, ongoing feud. But one of those ‘top White House staff members’ was senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, two White House officials confirmed to The Daily Beast.
According to these officials, Kushner and Scarborough had spoken ‘many weeks ago’ regarding a then upcoming negative Enquirer article on Scarborough and Brzezinski. Scarborough had ‘calmly sought’ advice from Kushner, who ‘recommended he speak with the president.’
But White House sources’ accounts of the conversation differed from Scarborough’s description and suggestions of more sinister interactions. No hostile threat or attempt at blackmail was made, according to these officials.
This is getting blown up on Twitter and elsewhere as some kind of blackmail operation,” one of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, said to the Daily Beast. “The truth is far more mundane. In this case, Joe was talking to Jared about his [bad] relationship with the president and a Enquirer hit piece he was uneasy about.
The Daily Beast noted that Trump has “close ties” to the Enquirer, which endorsed him in the 2016 presidential election. But the Daily Beast also included a denial from the publication’s vice president of any White House involvement in the decision to run the story.
“Dylan Howard, the vice president of National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc., denied any knowledge of White House attempts to elicit an apology from Scarborough in exchange for spiking the story,” the Daily Beast reported.
“We accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute,” Howard wrote in a statement posted on the Enquirer’s website on Friday. “At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story.”
But in the Washington Post op-ed, written by the couple, entitled “Donald Trump is Not Well,” they told a completely different story of the Enquirer scenario:
“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,” they wrote in a Washington Post column. “We ignored their desperate pleas.”
And on MSNBC with Willie Geist on Friday Scarborough said:
“We got a call that, ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys’…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 this story,” Scarborough said.
“I had three people at the very top of the administration calling me,” the host continued. “The calls kept coming, and kept coming.”
In the Washington Post op-ed, the couple also said they had “fond memories” of Trump.
“We have known Mr. Trump for more than a decade and have some fond memories of our relationship together,” they wrote.
We're officially on vacation…now. Happy 4th of July weekend!!! pic.twitter.com/lUHQBxU00k
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) June 30, 2017
— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) June 30, 2017