Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” published an op-ed in The Washington Post on Friday claiming that top White House staffers had threatened them with a negative story in the National Enquirer unless the hosts begged President Donald Trump to stop it.
“We ignored their desperate pleas,” Scarborough and Brzezinski wrote.
The op-ed came one day after the president bashed the hosts in a series of tweets.
The accusation by the MSNBC hosts is made more intriguing by the long, documented relationship between Trump and the tabloid.
The New Yorker earlier this week published an exposé of Trump’s relationship with the National Enquirer. In it, David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, the Enquirer’s parent company, told reporter Jeffrey Toobin that Trump was “a personal friend of mine.”
Pecker and Trump have been friends for decades, according to The New Yorker, and Pecker once hired a columnist on the condition that “on the outside she can’t be bashing Trump and American Media.”
Gus Wenner, the son of the Rolling Stone cofounder and media mogul Jann Wenner, told Toobin that Pecker told him he had stopped negative stories about Trump.
“He told me very bluntly that he had killed all sorts of stories for Trump,” Wenner told The New Yorker, adding that the columnist Pecker hired had threatened to go public with a negative story about Trump.
While Pecker denied the allegations to The New Yorker, he said he used his strong media presence to help his friends and that he admired Trump.
“I’d tell him every time I’d see him,” Pecker said, adding that the National Enquirer’s coverage of Trump was intended to give tabloid’s readers what they wanted. “I’d say, ‘Who cares about governor or mayor, you should be president.”
Brzezinski and Scarborough allege that the article the tabloid was planning to run about them concerned their romantic relationship. The couple announced their engagement earlier this year.
Scarborough said on “Morning Joe” on Friday that they had received calls from at least three high-level officials in the Trump administration asking for certain stories to be “spiked,” or discarded before publication.
“We got a call that, ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys,'” Scarborough said on the show.
Trump responded by tweeting on Friday that it was actually Scarborough who had called him to stop a National Enquirer article — a claim Scarborough immediately denied, saying he had texts from top aides as well as phone records.
The National Enquirer said in a statement that it had “no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story.”