The Truth Behind Trump's Feud With The Hosts Of Morning Joe

It's no secret that Donald Trump has an unorthodox relationship with the media, to put it mildly. Even before he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, Trump maintained a combative relationship with those news programs and hosts whose coverage he disfavored while getting especially chummy with on-air personalities he preferred. For a while, MSNBC's Morning Joe and its co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski seemed to fit into the latter category, with Trump making regular appearances on the show and lapping praise on their hot takes of current events surrounding him.

But in recent months, that relationship has deteriorated to the point of disrepair, and Trump lashed out at the program, with blistering comments lodged at Brzezinski in particular, using his favorite social media platform, by tweeting, "I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!" So, what went down between the morning show duo and the POTUS to earn such irascible tweets from the Oval Office? Here's what you need to know about Trump's feud with the stars of Morning Joe.

At first, Morning Joe was one of Trump's go-tos

Trump's relationship with Morning Joe stems back to the beginning of the decade. Long before his Presidential ambitions would be realized, he appeared on the show in 2011, and many other times, and Trump publicly applauded the show for its initial coverage of his goals, the polling numbers surrounding his platform, and for its choice to condemn other reporters that he didn't himself like. He even ran his first real campaign ad on the show.  Things went south for a spell in December 2015 when he decided he no longer liked what they had to say (temporarily), writing, "@Morning_Joe just went off the rails. I will beat Hillary easily – she does not want to run against me. I am tuning them out, waste of time."  However, Trump later made nice with Morning Joe's co-anchors and promoted Brzezinski's interview with his wife Melania Trump.

They even became known as his 'lap dogs'

The strangely sympatico relationship he had with the two became problematic in February, 2016 when Rolling Stone pegged Scarborough and Brzezinski as Trump's "lap dogs" after a hot-mic conversation between the trio became public and revealed that Trump had basically insisted that they make him look good ... without any argument from either host. He was quoted as telling them, "You have me almost as a legendary figure, I like that ... Just make us all look good." After that, Scarborough's reputation took a hit, as he was revealed to be a consistent source of counsel for Trump after the election, despite insisting that he was not "Pro-Trump," and things started to get heated between all parties involved.

But then he stopped liking what they had to say

Their too-close-for-comfort relationship seemed to fall apart when Trump took issue with Scarborough's suggestion that a third-party candidate consider running for the Presidency against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, at which time Trump tweeted, "I hear @JoeNBC of rapidly fading @Morning_Joe is pushing hard for a third party candidate to run. This will guarantee a Crooked Hillary win." A few days later, he accused the show of being "hostile" and misrepresenting him as a candidate because he wouldn't "do or watch the show anymore," and within a month's time he said that Brzezinski had become "wild with hate." Those comments were benign compared to some of the insults he'd later hurl at the stars of the show, particularly Brzezinski.

Trump really started to lay into them online

In August 2016, Trump called Brzezinski "off the wall" and "a neurotic and not very bright mess," and Scarborough clapped back at the comment about his future fiancee by writing, "Neurotic and not very bright? Look in the mirror." But Trump wasn't deterred and in September called Brzezinski "crazy and very dumb" while insisting that the show boasted "low ratings" and Scarborough was "a mess."

Scarborough insisted that this was a sign that they were doing good work during their campaign coverage, telling Vanity Fair, "Find anybody that has been harsher on Donald Trump than Mika or myself. Find anyone who's had more personal attacks. He attacked us personally. He called Mika neurotic. He called Mika stupid. He accused us of committing adultery over eight years. It got personal. And you know what we did? We didn't strike out. We kept doing what we did. When Hillary Clinton deserved to be praised, we praised her. When Donald Trump did, as well, we did that, too. How much more could we prove?"

Scarborough insisted he wasn't putty in Trump's hands

As evidenced by Donald Trump's repeated insistence that certain media outlets are "fake news," Trump has made no secret of his disdain for deleterious coverage of his decisions. Count The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC among the members of Commander in Chief's media hit list. But in the same CNN interview in which Scarborough defended himself against claims that he was in Trump's pocket, he warned his fellow journalists, "Don't let Donald Trump get into your head. Don't let him change the basic rules of journalism. You still pick up the phone, you still ask questions. Facts still matter. You still pursue stories that matter to people across the country instead of venting or trying to write the most snide tweet or the most snide article." The fact of the matter was, though, that Brzezinski herself basically admitted that Trump was kind of in their heads ...

Scarborough definitely still wanted Trump's ear

Speaking to Vanity Fair shortly after the election, Brzezinski characterized Scarborough's relationship with Trump—to whom he'd always said "good morning" on his program—by saying, "I think he respects Joe. Also remember the moment when Joe literally hung up on him on national television and he came back. These guys have known each other a long time. ... Even when Joe attacks Trump, I think Trump was willing to listen. That's important. That's a service. We're just trying our best to give you what we've been giving you for a decade."

The New Year's incident was very problematic for them

Although Trump's at-times cantankerous relationship with Morning Joe's co-hosts hardly began on June 29th, 2017, that was the date when Trump decided to reveal to the world his current opinion of the duo in his scathing tweets about their visit to Mar-a-Lago in 2016. But it wasn't the first time we'd heard about said visit. In fact, Scarborough was forced to defend his decision to join the then-President-Elect at his controversially nicknamed "Winter White House" resort property shortly after the turn of the year because the visit was seen as inappropriate by some of their colleagues. He later explained the trip to CNN by assuring that he was just doing his job as a political analyst by being there and had a brief meeting with Trump to discuss a future interview.

"We went back because Mika was going to be involved in the interview, and he said that he wanted to meet with Mika as well. That was really the premise for the follow-up on the 31st. Because they obviously had some very tough exchanges back and forth, and I think they just wanted to talk through those," he explained. Interestingly enough, though, Scarborough said back then that it was Brzezinski who was unable to attend the meeting, despite Trump's request for her to be there — an apparent contradiction of what Trump tweeted.

They dissed and dismissed his mouthpiece

Even if Morning Joe's stars were (perhaps rightly) accused of being too cozy with Trump, the two have since done an about-face on that approach. In February 2017, Brzezinski declared that the show would no longer book Trump's media mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway because of the fact her information (or, as she put it, "alternative facts") were too often contradictory to what was coming out of the White House directly. "We know for a fact she tries to book herself on this show; I won't do it 'cause ... every time I've ever seen her on television something is askew, off, or incorrect," she explained.

They then championed for other networks to follow suit by banishing Conway, saying the change of heart also applied to Trump. "In the first weeks of the presidency, I did present a great deal of patience, and held fire a little bit. I pulled back a little, because I feel like every presidency needs a chance to get its sea legs. And you want every presidency, whether you voted for that president or not, to be a success. What you're now seeing is that hope being lost. That's the only way I would describe our relationship: pulling back a little bit," he said. Things got especially tense once Brzezinski claimed that Conway had dissed her boss behind the scenes by saying that Conway claimed she "need[ed] to take a shower" after offering her support to Trump on-air for Morning Joe.

Ultimately, it was the Time magazine punchline that hit Trump the hardest

The real question on everyone's minds about Trump's Twitter tirade against Brzezinski in June 2017 is "why now?" One look at the show's recent coverage of Trump's administration shows that the duo have been hosting a number of stinging segments that take issue with Trump's policies on Russia, his comments about not wanting "poor" people making political decisions, his self-congratulatory cabinet meeting, his much-maligned push for healthcare policy reform, and his constant castigation of media outlets. They've even released a musical EP with trippy visual accompaniment that mocks the current climate.

But the catalyst for the comments seems to be the co-host's scathing take on the fact that Trump was exposed for having fabricated a cover of Time magazine and showcasing it at his various properties. The day before the tirade, Brzezinski covered the story by mocking Trump and saying, "He was so needy that he had not been on Time yet that he made his own ... a phony, fake, pathetic, made-up cover of Time Magazine." It wasn't the last time Scarborough and Brzezinski would go all-in on the Time Magazine story; the next day, as they covered the Senate's push to repeal and replace Obamacare, the subject of the Time cover came up again with Brzezinski saying, "Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself lying every day and destroying the country" and adding that his hands were covered in the chosen image for the feigned cover "because they're teensy." After Trump lashed out at Brzezinski, she clapped back at his tweets by posting a picture of a cereal box that boasted the log line, "Made for little hands."

Their feud is probably far from over

If recent history is any indication, the feud between Trump and Scarborough and Brzezinski is unlikely to die down anytime soon. 

About a day after Trump's tweets about Brzezinski's alleged face lift were posted, Scarborough and Brzezinski published a scathing op-ed to the Washington Post titled"Donald Trump is not well." "President Trump launched personal attacks against us Thursday, but our concerns about his unmoored behavior go far beyond the personal. America's leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president," the soon-to-be-married duo wrote. "We have our doubts, but we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show, Morning Joe."

The piece spent much of its time telling Scarborough and Brzezinski's side of the story, though it did reserve moments to criticize a number of things about the President, including his "continued mistreatment of women." The piece also concluded with two rather pointed paragraphs that could very well inspire yet another round of attacks from Trump. "We have known Mr. Trump for more than a decade and have some fond memories of our relationship together. But that hasn't stopped us from criticizing his abhorrent behavior or worrying about his fitness," Scarborough and Brzezinski, who also addressed the controversy on the Friday, June 30, 2017 episode of Morning Joe, wrote. "During the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Joe often listened to Trump staff members complain about their boss's erratic behavior, including a top campaign official who was as close to the Republican candidate as anyone."

They concluded, "We, too, have noticed a change in his behavior over the past few years. Perhaps that is why we were neither shocked nor insulted by the president's personal attack. The Donald Trump we knew before the campaign was a flawed character but one who still seemed capable of keeping his worst instincts in check."