President Donald Trump faced a swift and bipartisan backlash Thursday after he assailed the television host Mika Brzezinski in unusually personal and vulgar terms, the latest of a string of escalating attacks by the president on the national news media.
Shortly before 9 a.m., as Brzezinski’s MSNBC show “Morning Joe” was ending, Trump used Twitter to taunt Brzezinski and her co-host, Joe Scarborough, referring to them as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe” and describing a meeting with Brzezinski in which, he said, “she was bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
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..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
…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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
Trump is famed for his online provocations, but the coarseness of his remark about Brzezinski — coming from a president who has faced criticism for his attitudes toward women — drew immediate denunciations in the political world, including from prominent members of his own party.
“Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” the House speaker, Paul Ryan, told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican whose vote is considered critical to the success of Trump’s health care plan, wrote on Twitter:
This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov’t and media. We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) June 29, 2017
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, also a Republican, wrote on Twitter:
Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 29, 2017
The president has fumed for weeks about his coverage on “Morning Joe,” where Scarborough and Brzezinski have been increasingly blistering in their commentary about the Trump administration. They have openly questioned Trump’s mental state, comments that particularly upset the president, according to a senior administration official.
Trump has used the “psycho” moniker in private to describe Scarborough, and he views the “Morning Joe” criticism as a personal betrayal, the official said. Until recently, the president and the co-hosts had a relatively friendly relationship. Scarborough and Brzezinski visited Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, this past New Year’s.
On Thursday, Brzezinski responded to the president’s comments by posting a photograph on Twitter of a box of Cheerios with the words, “Made For Little Hands.” The tweet referred to a long-standing insult against Trump referring to the size of his hands. In a statement, MSNBC said, “It’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job.”
— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) June 29, 2017
Trump’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defended Trump’s tweets in an interview on Fox News.
“I don’t think that the president has ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back,” she told the Fox anchor Bill Hemmer. “This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media, and the liberal elites within the media.”
“But is that necessary?” Hemmer asked, referring to the graphic nature of Trump’s remark about Brzezinski.
“I think what’s necessary is to push back against unnecessary attacks on the president,” Sanders replied.
Trump also received a boost from one of his stalwart defenders, Sean Hannity of Fox News, who suggested that the president’s remarks about Scarborough were justified.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) June 29, 2017
Trump has launched broadsides this week against several of the country’s major television networks and newspapers, accusing the news media of creating “fake news” and of unfairly fixating on his campaign’s links to Russian officials. At a televised White House briefing, Sanders castigated CNN and said that Americans “deserve something better” from the country’s media.
A retraction by CNN of a report about one of Trump’s associates — followed by the resignations of three CNN journalists who worked on the story — has buoyed Trump and his team. The president has seized on the CNN report as evidence that the establishment news media is biased against him, and he has expanded his criticisms to encompass other news organizations including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Trump’s comment about Brzezinski echoed a contentious remark that he made about another female television anchor, Megyn Kelly, during last year’s presidential campaign. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” Trump said, a remark that was widely seen as a reference to menstruation and drew rebukes from women’s groups.