Donald Trump aimed a series of tweets at familiar targets on Saturday, complaining about the media and so-called voter fraud but saving his most direct fire for MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, the subjects of a fierce controversy over online bullying, sexism and accusations of White House blackmail.
The president sent his tweets from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he was spending the Fourth of July holiday. He began with best wishes to Canada on its national holiday then continued with another attack on the hosts of the weekday news show Morning Joe.
“Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses,” Trump wrote. “Too bad!”
The president first attacked Brzezinski on Thursday, describing her as “low IQ Crazy Mika” and claiming she had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida resort, last New Year’s Eve.
His tweets drew immediate and widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum and the media landscape.
On Friday, in a co-bylined editorial in the Washington Post and on their show, Brzezinski and Scarborough, who are engaged to be married, accused White House staff members of blackmail.
Friday on Morning Joe, Scarborough claimed several top White House staffers had warned him that an article in the National Enquirer, a tabloid controlled by Trump ally David Pecker, would unmask the couple’s relationship.
The officials, he said, told him Trump could arrange for the negative story to be pulled – if the MSNBC host called the president to apologize for critical coverage of the administration.
Trump pushed back on Twitter, claiming Scarborough had called him to quash the story. “I said no! Bad show.” the president wrote.
In the Post, the couple wrote: “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.”
On Saturday Trump continued his attack on the couple’s intellect and mental health – allowing the exception that they are “not bad people”.
The president, who has called the news media the “enemy of the American people”, routinely bashes newspapers and networks as purveyors of “fake news” while closely observing developments in the industry.
His commentary on Saturday reflected such interest. The president bemoaned the departure of Greta van Susteren, a former Fox News host, who traded the conservative network for the liberal- slanted MSNBC just six months ago.
“Word is,” he wrote, “that Greta van Susteren was let go by her out of control bosses at NBC & Comcast because she refused to go along w[ith] ‘Trump hate!’”
Van Susteren made the announcement on Thursday, after less than six months with the network, tweeting: “I’m out at MSNBC.”
Trump also claimed victory in a longstanding feud with CNN after the network accepted the resignations of three journalists involved in a story about a supposed investigation into a pre-inaugural meeting between an associate of Donald Trump and the head of a Russian investment fund. CNN retracted the story and said it did not meet the network’s editorial standards.
Later, in three tweets sent around 6pm ET, the president attempted a defense of his unorthodox attachment to Twitter. “The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media,” he wrote, “but remember, I won the 2016 election with interviews, speeches and social media. I had to beat #FakeNews, and did. We will continue to WIN!”
Trump earlier suggested – without offering evidence – that states refusing to turn over sensitive voter information to his newly convened commission on election integrity had something to hide.
“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL,” he wrote. “What are they trying to hide?”
On Thursday, commission vice-chair Kris Kobach sent a letter to states, asking for information on voters including names, addresses, voting histories, party affiliation and the last four digits of social security numbers.
At least 24 states either resisted the request on privacy protection grounds or flat-out rejected it as a backdoor effort at mass voter suppression – including Kansas, where Kobach is secretary of state and a candidate for governor.
Critics of the commission have raised concerns that it was established merely to justify Trump’s spurious claim that 3m to 5m votes were cast illegally in last November’s election, in which he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2.5m ballots but won the White House in the electoral college.
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