WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump suggested on Friday that he enabled a supermarket tabloid to publish an attack story on two cable TV hosts who have been critical of him.
Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that top White House aides had told them to call Trump and apologize for saying negative things about him, and had threatened that if they did not, the National Enquirer would publish a negative story about the pair.
Within minutes, Trump issued a Twitter statement, just as “Morning Joe” was ending.
Scarborough replied by dismissing the president’s tweet as “yet another lie” and said that he has texts from Trump aides and phone records.
The Trump administration has not directly addressed the claim that Trump’s aides threatened Brzezinski and Scarborough. The White House press office did not respond to follow-up queries about the issue, and deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to a tangential question on the topic by saying she had no information about it.
New York magazine published a story on Friday afternoon supporting the MSNBC hosts’ account and adding that one of the aides in question was Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The National Enquirer published a story on June 2 about Brzezinski and Scarborough’s relationship. The two have long been co-workers, and in May announced their plans to marry.
A year ago, the Enquirer claimed that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father may have been involved in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Trump cited that article several times on the campaign trail as a reason to question Cruz’s candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination.
Dylan Howard, the Enquirer’s chief content officer, issued a statement on Friday denying any collusion with Trump or the White House. “At the beginning of June, we accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute,” Howard said.
“At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story,” Howard said. “We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions.”
Trump reignited the dispute on Thursday morning with a pair of tweets attacking Brzezinski and Scarborough, insulting Brzezinski’s looks and intelligence, and claiming that the couple had “insisted on joining” Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort around New Year’s.
The pair responded with a Washington Post op-ed on Friday morning that said, among other things, that Trump had actually sought the meetings at Mar-a-Lago. They also suggested that if Trump didn’t like their show, he should stop watching it.
“The president’s unhealthy obsession with ‘Morning Joe’ does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs,” they wrote. “Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to ‘Fox & Friends.’”