Joe Scarborough expressed regret on Tuesday for how much coverage his MSNBC show dedicated to covering the Hillary Clinton email controversy during the 2016 election, admitting that while he thought the issue was “very legitimate at the time,” he believes he and others in the media “paid way too much attention to it.”
Appearing on Washington Post Live to discuss his latest book, Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War and the Fight for Western Civilization, Scarborough told Post columnist David Ignatius what lessons should be learned from how the media handled Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency.
“One thing we can be sure of is that Donald Trump is going to wanna take up as much of our national bandwidth as he can,” Ignatius observed, adding, “How do we get off of that ‘sugar high’ and treat him after Jan. 20 as a former president?”
Scarborough, however, first wanted to point out how the media “screwed up” during Trump’s initial 2016 campaign, stating that much of the blame could be centered on the amount of coverage devoted to the Clinton email scandal.
“I thought that was very legitimate at the time,” he said. “I thought the Clinton Foundation and how the Clintons chased in on public service, that was a legitimate question to ask. Hillary Clinton getting paid by Goldman Sachs to give a speech or getting paid by state colleges to give a speech… I think all of that was legitimate. ”
“But obviously looking back on it, we on Morning Joe, and others in media, paid way too much attention to that,” Scarborough added. “Especially if you look at what we’ve been through over the past four or five years.”
This would appear to be the first time Scarborough, who has become a vocal critic of the president’s, has publicly suggested he and his program spent too much time on the emails story, which centered on Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
Then-FBI Director James Comey recommended no charges filed in July 2016, adding that she was “extremely careless” with the way she handled her emails. The FBI briefly re-opened the investigation on Oct. 28, only to stick by its original conclusion on Nov. 6. The controversy over the ex-secretary of state’s emails was the most-covered story of the 2016 campaign.
The Morning Joe host went on to say that he hopes that the news media treats Trump as an ex-president going forward and that “they don’t follow the sugar high.” The former Republican congressman also took issue with how much free airtime Trump received during his initial presidential run.
“You look at prime time and I do have a real problem with the three big [cable] networks showing his rallies and not showing the rallies of Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton,” he lamented. “The fact there wasn't equal time... I think was a terrible mistake.”
Besides being extremely critical of Clinton and her emails throughout the 2016 election season, Morning Joe was an early booster of Trump’s campaign, providing the then-reality TV star with gobs of praise early on and booking him for lengthy on-air interviews. Scarborough even admitted to giving Trump political advice at the time and wouldn’t initially rule out running as vice president.
“You guys have been supporters,” Mr. Trump told the pair during an interview after he won the New Hampshire primary. “And I really appreciate it. And not necessarily supporters, but at least believers.”