President Trump has a very different account of what happened. “FAKE NEWS,” he tweeted during “Morning Joe” Friday morning.
But Scarborough says he has proof of the White House threats — he replied to Trump and said “I have texts from your top aides and phone records.”
And an NBC News spokesman told CNN that Scarborough kept several executives apprised of the alleged threats “contemporaneously.” This may bolster Scarborough’s stunning claim.
Scarborough and Brzezinski are essentially alleging a form of blackmail. The accusation came during a wider discussion about the president’s offensive tweets targeting the co-hosts.
“The president’s tacit admission of control over the Enquirer’s punishing coverage of his adversaries suggests an abuse of power — a shocking one,” said Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics czar.
A story escalating – Anthony Zurcher, Washington
What started yesterday as an undignified personal spat between Donald Trump and the hosts of a cable news show has morphed into something much more sinister – allegations of White House machinations that tread ever so close to outright blackmail.
If what Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough say is true, they were the targets of political dark arts reminiscent of the schemes of the Watergate “fixers” during the Nixon White House. Could Trump aides have really used the threat of an embarrassing story in a tabloid newspaper to pressure the two hosts to provide more favourable coverage?
The Trump administration will surely deny the charges, although the president himself lent some corroboration by tweeting that Scarborough asked him to tell the National Enquirer to bury an article about him.
That the president said he rejected such a request only raises more questions about the editorial control Mr Trump may have over a newspaper that routinely targeted his political opponents in 2016.
Where this story goes from here is anyone’s guess. Chances are, however, that the president – via his unchecked Twitter megaphone – will only add fuel to the fire
In response, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that he is “not aware” of White House officials pressing Scarborough to call up Trump and make nice.
The president himself weighed in via Twitter a few minutes later. He said he heard what Scarborough said on “Morning Joe,” but claimed that it’s untrue: “He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show.”
Scarborough responded quickly to Trump’s tweet with one of his own, writing, “Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven’t spoken with you in many months.”