Several minutes of what seemed to be a chummy off-camera exchange between Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump were released today by comedian and radio host Harry Shearer.
The audio from a "hot mic" was released on Shearer's radio program Le Show and is purportedly from a conversation between the three in Charleston, SC, on February 17 during commercial breaks from MSNBC's town hall event with Trump.
The hosts have recently been criticized for boosting Trump on their program, and for their performance moderating the town hall in question, which was labeled a "journalistic shortfall" and "disgraceful" by media observers. The non-confrontational tone of the town hall event apparently extended seamlessly into the commercial breaks, where Scarborough, Brzezinski, and Trump engaged in friendly banter:
- After Scarborough told Trump that "all the polls out today look great in South Carolina," Trump asked Scarborough if he thinks super PAC ads against him are catching on, noting, "they're spending $75 million in negative ads on me over the last two weeks." Scarborough replied, "No."
- Brzezinski pointed out what she described as a "wow moment" on the campaign trail when Trump brought two supporters up on stage. Scarborough told Trump, "We played it several times this morning." Trump responded by telling the pair that he watched the show that day and observed, "You had me almost as a legendary figure." Indeed, Gawker highlighted video of the hosts airing the video of the supporters that day on Morning Joe, which concludes with Scarborough calling the moment "quite powerful":
- Scarborough told Trump "we were completely wrong" in thinking he did poorly in the February 13 Republican debate. He later told the candidate that "the people who mattered" thought he did well.
- After Brzezinski thanked Trump for participating in the town hall event, Trump said, "I'm doing this because you get great ratings and a raise -- me, I get nothing."
- Brzezinski can be heard asking, reportedly to a producer, "You don't want me to do the ones with deportation?" which is followed by Trump saying, "That's right, nothing too hard, Mika."
- Trump asked Scarborough, "So what are the chances that something bad can happen on Saturday for me?" -- an apparent reference to the South Carolina primary. Scarborough reassured Trump by pointing out that polls in the election so far have done a good job of predicting primary results.
- Trump and Scarborough discuss Trump's golf game.
- Scarborough told Trump that National Journal columnist Ron Fournier "understands" Trump's campaign now after visiting Michigan, where he "got an earful" from Trump's supporters. (Trump said Fournier "has been brutal.") Scarborough added that The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza "has completely changed," and Trump responded, "Cillizza's been fantastic."
Reporting on the release of the audio, The Washington Post's Callum Borchers noted that the clip feeds "the buddy-buddy narrative" surrounding Morning Joe's relationship with Trump. CNN's Dylan Byers wrote that the audio "offered the latest evidence that the 'Morning Joe' co-hosts are too friendly toward Trump, which has become a source of discomfort at NBC."