Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol is often dubbed “The Wrongest Man in Politics,” but on Thursday morning he was right about one thing: MSNBC’s Morning Joe crew played at least a tiny role in enabling a Donald Trump presidential candidacy.
Such a suggestion, however, caused much consternation on the show, with Kristol and host Joe Scarborough shouting at each for a good five minutes as a result.
The drama began when, during the show’s second hour of broadcast, Kristol claimed the real-estate mogul had won the Republican Party’s nomination in a “fluky” way, deflecting blame off the party itself and its voting base.
When co-host Mika Brzezinski attempted to refocus Kristol on the GOP’s need to “come clean on themselves” for picking a blustery Trump, the neoconservative pundit went on a sarcastic tear: “Oh, this show was very tough, this show was really tough on Trump in late 2015 and early 2016,” he said, not-so-subtly suggesting the Acela corridor-centric gabfest was at least partly to blame for the billionaire’s political rise.
After Scarborough took issue with such a characterization of his show, Kristol shot back that the hosts were trying to “rewrite history.” He then attempted to defuse the situation, saying, “A lot of people accommodated Donald Trump at different times. I’m not going to get into it.”
“You just did,” Scarborough shouted in return. “You lied. Please don’t come on my air and lie… I can’t even believe you are doing this. I don’t know why you are so bitter.”
And thus began a shouting match that devolved into a schoolyard fight at several points.
“I'm not bitter,” Kristol protested.
“You’re practically crying,” Scarborough yelled, deploying the ever-effective “Why are you hitting yourself” technique.
The MSNBC host then claimed that his show had been “tough” on Trump early on, including comparing the reality-TV star’s proposal to ban all Muslim immigration to Germany 1933, at the outset of Hitler’s rise to power.
“And you treated him that way when he called in, is that right?” Kristol responded.
“We treated him tough,” Joe said, perhaps protesting too much.
“You treated him tough,” a clearly upset Kristol snarked. “You asked the most tough questions.”
While Scarborough pointed several times to the 1933 comparison as proof of his show’s toughness on Trump, the fact is that, throughout the GOP primary, Morning Joe had repeatedly been accused—by outlets of all stripes—of a discomfiting coziness with the real-estate mogul.
Such charges reached a fever pitch following the show’s widely panned February “town-hall” discussion with Trump, in which the candidate flattened Scarborough and Brzezinski, extracting the utmost politeness from the hosts who repeatedly called him a “friend” of the show up until then.
“We don’t need to get into this,” Kristol eventually offered an olive branch during Thursday’s TV argument.
But Scarborough smacked it down. “It’s too late. You’re bitter. You come on here, practically crying—we have it on tape—you’re screaming at Mika.”
“I’m fine,” Kristol objected, before pivoting more delicately to his now-agreement with Scarborough on the dangers of a Trump presidency.
Clearly, it seems, neither side is willing to accept any culpability for the rise of Trump.