President Trump lashed out at the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in two vicious tweets Thursday morning, calling Mika Brzezinski “low I.Q. Crazy” and claiming that she had a facelift late last year.
Trump also called Joe Scarborough “Psycho Joe” and said the hosts came to Mar-a-Lago — his private club in Palm Beach, Fla. — three nights in a row around New Year’s Eve “and insisted on joining me.” He claimed that Brzezinski “was bleeding badly from a facelift” at the time and that, “I said no!”
Brzezinski and Scarborough were both spotted at Trump’s New Year’s Eve party, according to pool reports at the time, prompting Scarborough to fire off numerous tweets defending his presence there. At the time, Scarborough said that he and Brzezinski were at the party to set up an interview with the president-elect.
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
Brzezinski responded on Twitter on Thursday morning with a photo of the back of a Cheerios cereal box that reads: “Made for Little Hands.” Brzezinski did not explain what she meant by the tweet, although she seemed to be subtly attacking the president for the size of his hands. Mark Kornblau, the NBCUniversal News Group’s senior vice president for communications, tweeted: “Never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.’ ”
An MSNBC spokesman said in a statement: “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.”
Trump has long been defensive about the size of his hands, an issue that seemed to start decades ago when Graydon Carter described Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in Spy magazine. Carter, now the editor of Vanity Fair, said that since then, Trump has regularly mailed him tear sheets from magazines with his hands circled in gold Sharpie to highlight the length of his fingers. On the campaign trail, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) brought up the size of Trump’s hands, prompting Trump to defend himself during a debate, saying: “And he referred to my hands — if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you, there is no problem. I guarantee you.”
Trump and the “Morning Joe” hosts have had a roller-coaster relationship. In the early days of his campaign, Brzezinski and Scarborough would regularly allow the candidate to call into their show and speak at length. After Trump’s victory in the New Hampshire primary in February 2016, he called in to the show to say: “You guys have been supporters, and I really appreciate it. And not necessarily supporters, but at least believers. You said there’s some potential there.” When Brzezinski and Scarborough announced their engagement in spring, Scarborough told Vanity Fair that the president had offered to officiate their wedding.
Brzezinski and Scarborough have also both been critical of Trump — and over the past several months, Brzezinski has raised questions about the president’s mental health. She said on the show in March that Trump is “possibly unfit mentally,” and earlier this month, she said the president is “such a narcissist, it’s possible that he is mentally ill in a way.”
During the show Thursday, both hosts raised concerns about the president seeming to sideline Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in favor of allowing his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to act as a de facto secretary of state. Brzezinski said that Trump’s behavior is unlike that of any president before him.
“Let’s say someone came into NBC and took over NBC and started tweeting wildly about people’s appearances, bullying people, talking about people in the competition, lying every day, undermining his managers, throwing them under — the person would be thrown out,” she said. “It’s just not normal behavior. In fact, there would be concern that perhaps the person who runs the company is out of his mind.”
Trump’s staff and allies came to his defense Thursday morning. Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Fox News that she has “seen far worse things come out of that show” than what the president tweeted, accusing the “Morning Joe” hosts of “mean, hateful attacks.”
“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 or Hollywood or anywhere else,” Sanders said.
First lady Melania Trump, who has made combatting cyber-bullying one of her main focuses in the White House, has not publicly reacted to her husband’s tweets. Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady, referred reporters to comments that Melania Trump made on the campaign trail about her husband needing to defend himself, including at an April 2016 rally in Milwaukee, where she said: “When you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder. No matter who you are, a man or a woman, he treats everyone equal.”
Sean Hannity of Fox News, a close friend of the president’s who has advised him and often comes to his defense, tweeted: “Maybe liberal Joe should stop calling the @POTUS a schmuck, a liar, a thug and mentally unhinged. Were they kissing @POTUS [a–] at xmas? Yes.”
Dan Scavino Jr., who oversees the president’s social media, had tweeted in the morning: “#DumbAsARockMika and lover #JealousJoe are lost, confused & saddened since @POTUS stopped returning their calls! Unhinged.”
The president has claimed that he no longer watches the show, but it remains popular among lawmakers and is usually playing in the gyms where members of Congress work out in the mornings. Guests on Thursday morning included Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
And the president’s tweets were quickly condemned by lawmakers and others. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a news conference that the president’s tweet was not appropriate. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) tweeted: “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. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has long been critical of Trump, tweeted, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.” And Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), another Trump critic, tweeted: “Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”
Bill Kristol, a conservative commentator and editor at large of the Weekly Standard, tweeted: “Dear @realDonaldTrump, You are a pig. Sincerely, Bill Kristol.”
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
Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) June 29, 2017
Paul Farhi and Abby Phillip contributed to this report.