Friday, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, as well as Willie Geist, spoke about a peculiar story involving the White House, the National Enquirer, and blackmail:
SCARBOROUGH: We got a call that, hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys, and...the president is friends with the guy who runs the National Enquirer. And they said: “If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and, basically, spike this story.”
I had, I will just say three people at the very top of the administration calling me, and the response was like, are you kidding me? I don't know what they have. The calls kept coming and coming, and they were like: “Call. You need to call. Please call.”
BRZEZINSKI: And let me explain what they were threatening. [The National Enquirer] were calling my children, they were calling close friends of mine, and they were pinning the story on my ex-husband, who would absolutely never do that. So, I knew immediately it was a lie, and that they had nothing. And these calls persisted for quite some time, and then Joe had the conversations he had with the White House where they said: “Oh, this could go away.”
GEIST: So, I just want to be very clear here. The National Enquirer is harassing your children, your daughters, who are teenagers. And then Joe, in turn, is getting calls from the White House...
Scarborough then mentioned that at one point, as he was exiting Brzezinski's home, a van was parked outside, and a man who seemed like a tabloid reporter asked him a number of questions.
In short, Scarborough and Brzezinski are alleging that the Trump administration, via National Enquirer, was blackmailing them into easing up on their coverage of the president.
Not shockingly, President Trump not only denied the allegation, but turned the tables, tweeting:
Additionally, Fox News is now reporting that a “White House source familiar with the matter said Scarborough called senior adviser Jared Kushner, with whom Scarborough has a friendly relationship, to ask about a National Enquirer article slated to run in early June regarding the relationship between Scarborough and Brzezinski, who have since announced their engagement.”
Fox News continues:
Scarborough asked Kushner if there was anything that could be done about the article, the source said, given Trump’s friendship with David Pecker, the chief executive of The Enquirer’s parent company, American Media. Kushner allegedly told Scarborough that the former Republican congressman needed to talk to the president himself about the issue, to which Scarborough replied that Trump was angry at him. The source said Kushner answered: “Well, then maybe you should apologize.”
Trump and co. are claiming that Scarborough initiated contact with the hopes that the president could squash the Enquirer piece, which was eventually published in June. The piece alleges that Joe and Mika were involved in a “sleazy cheating scandal” prior to their engagement.
National Enquirer released a statement denying all accusations against them, essentially backing up Trump's narrative:
At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story. 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.
But here comes the curveball that could change this from a "they said/they said" story into something more substantial. Joe Scarborough responded to Trump's tweet, claiming he has evidence to back up his claims:
At this point, this entire story is conjecture. Neither side has produced evidence that would corroborate their version of events. Given Trump’s history of petulant behavior, it wouldn't come as a surprise if Scarborough and Brzezinski’s story turned out to be the accurate version. However, until Scarborough reveals what he claims to have, this story is in the air.