MSNBC is in backpedal mode after CNN reported that Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski watched the New Hampshire primary election results with Donald Trump.
CNN’s Dylan Byers originally reported, “Trump also told the hosts “it was great” seeing them the previous evening. Scarborough and Brzezinski visited Trump’s hotel room on Tuesday night while the New Hampshire primary results were rolling in, according to two sources with knowledge of their visit. Scarborough and Brzezinski did not respond to a request for comment.”
Scarborough and Byers had this exchange on Twitter:
Then go on rec and say I’m wrong. This game of not responding/staying off-rec then issuing ad hominems doesn’t work https://t.co/oCXLuNoduy
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) February 10, 2016
MSNBC put out a press release that defended Scarborough, but also confirmed the CNN report:
CNN’s media reporter, Dylan Byers, is implying that Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski watched election returns with Donald Trump last night in New Hampshire. That is not true.
The Morning Joe hosts instead did what anchors are supposed to do — they interviewed the candidate’s senior staff to get background information on their strategy in New Hampshire, and on their campaign’s plans moving forward in South Carolina. The staff then invited the hosts to get Mr. Trump’s reaction to the victory. That discussion lasted less than five minutes. Other networks were allowed interviews as well.
It should be noted that Morning Joe is off to a great start in this election year. In January, the show had 28% more viewers than CNN’s morning show last month. And thus far in February, more people are watching Morning Joe than CNN.
Donald Trump seemed to confirm the friendly relationship between himself and Morning Joe:
Trump said, “You guys have been supporters. And I really appreciate it. And not necessarily supporters, but at least believers. You said there’s some potential there.”
The problem is that media members shouldn’t be believers, and Scarborough has a history of advocacy at MSNBC. Trump is known for only wanting to appear on “friendly” media, and nobody has been more friendly to Trump than Morning Joe.
Scarborough has not gone on the record to deny the friendly relationship with Trump. MSNBC has changed from a network where liberals and progressives could get their news to a channel that, outside of Rachel Maddow, caters to Donald Trump. If there is a personal relationship between the Morning Joe hosts and Trump, they have a duty to disclose it on the air to MSNBC’s viewers.
If MSNBC wants to be taken seriously as a news outlet, they must uphold ethical guidelines for all on-air talent. Something has always been fishy about Trump/Morning Joe relationship. It’s time for MSNBC to stop hiding behind ratings and come clean about this potential conflict of interest.