Morning Joe panel condemns Gibson's "sick," "grossly inappropriate" comments about Heath Ledger's death

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On the January 24 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-hosts Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Willie Geist characterized as "unbelievable," "grossly inappropriate," and "hateful" comments, highlighted by the blog Think Progress, that Fox News host John Gibson and others made during the January 22 broadcast of his Fox News Radio talk show regarding the death of actor Heath Ledger. The Morning Joe hosts also described the radio broadcast and its participants as "callous," "very insensitive," "not funny," "sick," "absolutely, totally out of line," "stunning," "mean-spirited," and "incomprehensible." In addition, Brzezinski asserted: "I don't know how you stay on the air after doing something like that, quite frankly," later adding, "I don't know how you stay on the air ... after doing that. I don't know who would listen to you." She also stated: "At the very least ... I assume this guy apologizes. ... At the very most, he probably loses his job."

Later in the segment, after airing audio from Gibson's January 22 show, Scarborough asked: "Is he laughing that Heath Ledger died because he made a movie about two gay men? Is that why this young father dying was a punch line to John Gibson?" Geist replied: "Of course it is. That's the implication." Scarborough then asserted: "So, if you make a movie, this is now -- it's not that if you are gay, then your death is a punch line. If you make a movie about being gay, that's a punch -- your death becomes a punch line. ... This is -- I don't know who syndicates this guy, but that is absolutely stunning."

During the "What Have We Learned Today?" segment at the end of the show, Brzezinski returned to Gibson's comments, saying that she had learned "what not to do if you're John Gibson; if you want to keep your career."

Ledger, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the movie Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features, December 2005), was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on January 22. An initial autopsy proved inconclusive and his cause of death is still unknown. Brokeback Mountain was "based on the 'E. Annie Proulx' story about a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys."

Gibson began the segment by airing a montage of quotes from Brokeback Mountain, while funeral music played in the background. In the audio clip, Jack Twist, played by actor Jake Gyllenhaal, says to his lover, Ennis Del Mar, played by Heath Ledger, "I wish I knew how to quit you." Gibson then broke in and said: "Well, he found out how to quit you," and went on to announce, "Actor Heath Ledger found dead today in his New York City apartment." Gibson later said: "You're 28 years old, and you're thinking about death? Give me a break." He later added: "Maybe he [Ledger] was a weirdo." Gibson then aired another clip from the film, in which Ledger's character says: "We're dead." Gibson, adopting a cowboy accent, repeated: "We're dead." Gibson then asserted: "Nah, it's a terrible thing. ... [I]t is terrible. I don't know why a 28-year-old guy is thinking about death. He should be thinking about all the great things that he's going to do in the 50, 60 years he's got left." Later in the broadcast, Gibson again discussed Ledger's death, saying: "You know, there is new news coming out right now that apparently Heath Ledger was suicidal, and his friends saw it coming. I think he watched the Clinton-Obama debate last night. I think he was an Edwards guy, 'cause he saw his Edwards guy was just completely irrelevant -- good looking, wears a suit well -- but should just leave the stage."

From the January 23 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: Hey, did you -- you didn't use the John Gibson news you can't use. Did you hear what that guy did yesterday?

BRZEZINSKI: Oh.

GEIST: I heard bits of it, I --

SCARBOROUGH: He --

BRZEZINSKI: I --

SCARBOROUGH: It was unbelievable. He's unbelievable. No, Willie -- Mika saw this --

BRZEZINSKI: I did.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and brought it up to my attention, and this is kind of concerning. Do we -- do we have the clip, Chris, of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll have it in one second.

BRZEZINSKI: OK, we'll have it in a second.

SCARBOROUGH: John Gibson where he was actually talking about Heath Ledger's tragic death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got it.

BRZEZINSKI: And I believe this -- what you're about to see is a bit callous. Is that a safe way to characterize it?

SCARBOROUGH: I would characterize it as being grossly inappropriate, bordering on --

BRZEZINSKI: Just show a small -- I don't want to --

SCARBOROUGH: It's very insensitive. Yeah, let's watch.

BRZEZINSKI: Just a little bit.

SCARBOROUGH: John Gibson yesterday.

[begin audio clip]

GIBSON: Maybe he was a weirdo.

ANGRY RICH (co-host): I'm thinking about it right now.

GIBSON: OK, anyway, Heath Ledger died, and I'm sure people will be upset. All you Brokeback Mountain fans, you want to give [associate producer] Christine a call, she'll be happy to talk to you.

DEL MAR [audio clip from Brokeback Mountain]: We're dead.

GIBSON: "We're dead."

[...]

GIBSON: Maybe he had a serious position in the market.

TOM SULLIVAN (radio host): Yeah, possibly, and today, he looked at the window --

GIBSON: And said, "Oh my God."

[...]

GIBSON: [A]pparently Heath Ledger was suicidal, and his friends saw it coming. I think he watched the Clinton-Obama debate last night.

[end audio clip]

SCARBOROUGH: And then he went on -- didn't he go on and say something like, "I can't" --

GEIST: I think he did play the clip --

SCARBOROUGH: -- "quit you."

GEIST: -- of "I can't quit you," and he said something like --

SCARBOROUGH: "Looks like he did."

GEIST: "He did quit us."

SCARBOROUGH: "He did."

BRZEZINSKI: I mean, that is just --

GEIST: I don't know if -- is he trying to be funny? That's not funny.

BRZEZINSKI: I don't know, but I don't know how you stay on the air after doing something like that, quite frankly.

SCARBOROUGH: It's not just him, his entire -- that entire team was making fun of a tragic death, and anybody that has had a friend or family member that has fought --

BRZEZINSKI: Struggled.

SCARBOROUGH: -- addiction problems, and the demons of that, and this man, this human being, this father, who had a 2-year-old daughter that he dearly loved, and he left behind -- it's unconscionable.

BRZEZINSKI: Yep.

SCARBOROUGH: I don't understand that Mika, I really -- you're right. Calling this guy a "weirdo"; saying he found a way to "quit us"; "maybe he killed himself because he watched the Clinton-Obama debate" -- this is about as callous, callous and harsh of anything I have head. It is unspeakably rude.

BRZEZINSKI: I also just don't see how you get away with something like that. I just don't. I mean, not that -- I don't know.

SCARBOROUGH: I don't know.

BRZEZINSKI: I don't know how you stay on the air --

SCARBOROUGH: I don't understand.

BRZEZINSKI: -- after doing that. I don't know who would listen to you.

SCARBOROUGH: I don't know.

BRZEZINSKI: Maybe I'm just --

SCARBOROUGH: Maybe people like listening to that.

BRZEZINSKI: -- not edgy enough. What can I say?

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, making fun of tragedy in other people's lives.

BRZEZINSKI: OK.

SCARBOROUGH: I swear; I don't understand that at all.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, all right.

SCARBOROUGH: What's wrong with him?

BRZEZINSKI: I don't know.

GEIST: Let's make a rule. When someone dies, let's not laugh about it.

SCARBOROUGH: Let's -- let's talk --

GEIST: How about that? Let's all agree on that. Good.

BRZEZINSKI: We'll make that a rule here in the trust tree, and we're now not going to talk about John Gibson anymore because it's too sick. The whole thing's too sick. Let's move on.

SCARBOROUGH: It's sick. You know what? That's actually a great word for it: sick.

BRZEZINSKI: It's sick.

SCARBOROUGH: And it wasn't just John Gibson, it was whoever else was around him --

BRZEZINSKI: The whole thing's sick --

SCARBOROUGH: -- sitting there mocking and ridiculing Heath Ledger, a young man, 28 years old, fighting depression, fighting substance abuse, fighting a lot of demons that a lot of Americans fight every day.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. Well, OK.

SCARBOROUGH: And he's making it -- he's making this young man's death -- this father's death -- a punch line.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, it was absolutely, totally out of line.

SCARBOROUGH: Let's -- Chris says --

BRZEZINSKI: No.

SCARBOROUGH: -- we have a little more. No, I just --

BRZEZINSKI: No, I don't -- you know --

SCARBOROUGH: -- want to play -- play a little bit more. No, I -- let's see who this John Gibson is.

[begin audio clip]

[begin audio clip -- from Brokeback Mountain]

TWIST: Well, since we're going to be working together, I reckon it's time we start drinking together.

ALMA BEERS DEL MAR (by Michelle Williams): If you don't go out there and finish her.

DEL MAR: You don't know nothing about her.

JOE AGUIRRE (by Randy Quaid): You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there.

DEL MAR: We was fishing buddies.

TWIST: I wish I knew how to quit you.

[end film audio clip]

GIBSON: Well, he found out how to quit you.

[...]

GIBSON: Heath Ledger died, and I'm sure people will be upset. All you Brokeback Mountain fans, you want to give Christine a call, she'll be happy to talk to you.

DEL MAR [audio clip from film]: We're dead.

GIBSON: "We're dead."

DEL MAR [audio clip from film]: We're dead.

[end audio clip]

SCARBOROUGH: Did you hear him laughing?

GEIST: That's not funny.

BRZEZINSKI: I gotta tell you something. That makes me nauseous. I'm serious. I --

SCARBOROUGH: Did you hear him starting to laugh?

BRZEZINSKI: I cannot believe --

SCARBOROUGH: Is he laughing that Heath Ledger died because he made a movie about two gay men? Is that why this young father dying was a punch line to John Gibson?

GEIST: Of course it is. That's the implication.

SCARBOROUGH: So, if you make a movie, this is now -- it's not that if you are gay, then your death is a punch line. If you make a movie about being gay, that's a punch -- your death becomes a punch line.

BRZEZINSKI: Well --

SCARBOROUGH: This is -- I don't know who syndicates this guy, but that is absolutely stunning. That John Gibson would be that mean-spirited and hateful. There are -- there is no, there is no other -- let's move on. I'm so --

BRZEZINSKI: Please.

SCARBOROUGH: -- flabbergasted by this -- that he is laughing at a young father's death.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, we'll see what happens --

SCARBOROUGH: And again --

BRZEZINSKI: -- because I'd imagine --

SCARBOROUGH: -- and I suppose today, he could say, "Well, he's the guy that decided to kill himself and leave his daughter."

GEIST: Well, he didn't, first of all. We don't know that.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, we don't know that that's the case. Also, every family -- gay families, straight families, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, evangelicals, Jews, atheists -- everybody has been touched by somebody in their family that has either been impacted by depression or by substance abuse.

BRZEZINSKI: You're right.

SCARBOROUGH: And it is tragic, and the fact that he is making light of it is, again, just, it's incomprehensible. I don't know --

BRZEZINSKI: At the very least --

SCARBOROUGH: -- how the guy sleeps at night.

BRZEZINSKI: -- I assume this guy apologizes.

SCARBOROUGH: All right.

GEIST: Let's not talk about him anymore.

BRZEZINSKI: At the very most, he probably loses his job. Can we move on?

SCARBOROUGH: I don't even look at his face anymore to be honest with you, 'cause --

BRZEZINSKI: OK.

SCARBOROUGH: -- you're right, it makes me sick.

BRZEZINSKI: All right, let's talk politics.

[...]

GEIST: I learned that there's an amusement park in Lithuania that appeals to nostalgia for the Soviet Union.

SCARBOROUGH: And for the Brzezinskis, too.

BRZEZINSKI: These are my home videos.

GEIST: Border guard, interrogations, KGB agents, looks like a lot of fun for the family.

BRZEZINSKI: And I learned --

SCARBOROUGH: And it looks like Mika's youth.

BRZEZINSKI: -- yes, my upbringing -- what not to do if you're John Gibson; if you want to keep your career. Full hour of news is straight ahead.

SCARBOROUGH: John Gibson. Can you believe that? I still cannot believe --

GEIST: Disgusting.

SCARBOROUGH: -- John Gibson. It's unbelievable.

GEIST: Debate tonight, MSNBC, Republicans in Boca.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
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