(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)
Republican lawmakers on Thursday swiftly rebuked President Donald Trump for crudely claiming that “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a face-lift,” saying such tweets are beneath the office of the president.
In a two-part tweet, Trump said he “heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore).” He then went on to hit Brzezinski: “how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came … 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!”
The messages, some of the most graphic and personal sense Trump became president, were condemned by Republicans who are struggling to push Trump’s legislative agenda forward while the White House is consumed by the Russia probes and self-inflicted dramas.
“Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday during his weekly press conference, adding, “Look, what we’re trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility of the debate, and this obviously doesn’t help do that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went further, tweeting, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”
Graham later told POLITICO that Trump’s insult was “highly inappropriate” regardless of any impact it might have on distracting from the GOP agenda. Asked if the president should apologize, Graham said, “I would, if I were” Trump.
The tweets echo some of Trump’s attacks from the campaign trail, during which he went after then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly after the first debate by saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
But the messages take on a new tenor now that Trump is in the Oval Office, and is trying to pull off big legislative lifts — including a Obamacare repeal bill and tax reform package — that require message discipline.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly defended the tweets, explaining the president fights back when he feels the criticism toward him is unwarranted.
“Look, I don’t think that the president’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back,” Sanders told Fox News on Thursday morning. “There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him but to frankly everyone around him. … This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media or liberal elites in Hollywood or anywhere else.”
Sanders said she personally has been attacked on “Morning Joe” on matters that have nothing to do with her beliefs, ideology or policy. “I have seen far worse things [than the tweets] come out of that show,” she said.
The first lady’s office responded to the president’s tweet through a spokeswoman who reiterated what Melania Trump said in an April 2016 speech.
“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, said in a statement.
But there’s evidence that the public is frustrated with the president’s Twitter use. More than 6-in-10 registered voters say Trump should stop tweeting, including 49 percent of Republicans, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted ahead of Trump’s latest attack and released Thursday.
And some Republicans in Congress said Trump crossed a line with his vulgar message.
Following a hearing on U.S. Capitol Police, Republican Sen. James Lankford said in a statement that the president “should model civility, honor, and respect in our political rhetoric. The President’s tweets today don’t help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue.”
Unlike other Republicans who in the past have vocalized their opposition to Trump’s actions, Lankford isn’t a notably frequent Trump critic.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who is a frequent critic, tweeted: “Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed, telling reporters that what Trump tweeted was “so blatantly sexist” and “really saddens me because it is so beneath the dignity of the president of the United States to engage in such behavior.”
She also blasted her Republican colleagues who haven’t condemned the president’s rhetoric. “The Republicans, they can tolerate almost anything — a candidate beating up a reporter and then cheering him on as he arrives in Congress, the tweets of the president of the United States,” she said at her weekly news conference. “They set a low standard for public officials in terms of their demeanor.”
Trump’s tweet dominated the conversation on a day when the House was scheduled to vote on two immigration bills, the Senate was focused on getting its Obamacare repeal legislation back on track, and part of the administration’s travel ban was set to be enforced Thursday evening. The White House had also designated this “energy week,” with Trump scheduled to deliver remarks at an energy event at the Energy Department.
Republicans expressed frustration that the president’s tweets do nothing to further the GOP agenda.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is among the Republican holdouts on the health care bill, 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. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another skeptic of the GOP health bill, tweeted, “Stop it! The Presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down.”
Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham sent out a tweet chastising the White House’s message discipline: “Today ALL comms coming out of WH shd be focused on #KatesLaw and #NoSanctuaryforCriminalsAct — not cable TV hosts.”
GOP strategist Rick Tyler, a former communications aide to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s White House bid, told POLITICO that Trump’s tweets have “zero benefit” and criticized the administration’s defense of them as “childish.”
“Republicans will arrive at the 2018 elections with absolutely no accomplishments and nothing to run on,” Tyler said. “In order to effect large-scale public policy change through legislation, you must have a communications strategy to convince the country that the direction you’re going is somewhere they’d like to go.”
While Trump’s attack on Thursday morning provoked a big response, the “Morning Joe” hosts have a notorious love-hate relationship with the president. During the 2016 campaign, Trump was a frequent call-in guest to the show and as recently as March retained Joe Scarborough’s advice on matters before addressing Congress. But the MSNBC show has also faced criticism for being too cozy with the administration.
In a Vanity Fair report from May on the co-hosts’ recent engagement, the couple acknowledged meeting with the president more than a week after his inauguration, where Trump reportedly suggested they have their wedding at Mar-a-Lago or the White House. According to Scarborough, Trump even suggested he could be the one to marry them.
Scarborough and Brzezinski have since become increasingly critical of the president, and Trump has repeatedly attacked them on Twitter, but Thursday’s messages marked a new low.
Brzezinski responded to Trump shortly after his tweets on Thursday with her own post of a Cheerios box detailing a child and the slogan “Made For Little Hands” — a seemingly pointed reference to the campaign trail during which Trump’s hand size was often targeted.
MSNBC, meanwhile, was direct and unsparing in its criticism.
“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,” an MSNBC spokesperson said, echoing a similar sentiment from the organization’s spokesman Mark Kornblau, who tweeted that he “never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.’”
It was not immediately clear what specific comments set off the Twitter attacks this morning, but Brzezinski did hit the president this morning on “lying … and destroying the country.”
“Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself, lying every day and destroying the country,” Brzezinski said in reference to a Washington Post report that alleges a fabricated Time magazine cover photo featuring Trump is hanging in at least five of his golf clubs.
Also, on Tuesday’s episode of “Morning Joe,” Brzezinski and Scarborough went back and forth on Trump’s hand size and his onslaught of media-focused tweets of late.
“That’s a very small person,” Brzezinski said.
“I work in cable news and I can tell you that’s sad, pathetic. Think bigger,” Scarborough countered, adding that while the “worst health care strategy ever” rages, Trump’s talking about the media.
“Keep on being small,” Brzezinski said.
“Tiny. That’s the word,” Scarborough corrected.
On the campaign trail, the president was often criticized for his treatment of women, most notably after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump can be heard bragging about sexually assaulting women.
And in a bizarre moment on Tuesday, while on the phone with Ireland’s new prime minister, Trump called forward an Irish journalist to comment on her smile.
Despite the furor around his tweets on Thursday, Trump did get some support outside of the White House. Fox News primetime host and frequent Trump defender Sean Hannity tweeted various links to “Morning Joe”-related coverage. “Maybe liberal Joe should stop calling the @POTUS a schmuck, a liar, a thug and mentally unhinged. Were they kissing @POTUS ass at xmas? Yes,” he tweeted.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) also appeared to defend the president, noting that he’s dealing with an adversarial news media.
“The media is salting him every day,” Shelby said. “I guess he’s fighting back.”
Other lawmakers, however, said they were trying to tune it out.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he didn’t want to talk about the president’s tweets because he’s trying to “stay positive.”
“If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all,” Johnson said.
“The American people need us to be focused on health care and tax reform, not Twitter fights and cable news,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said on Twitter.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2016, summarized Trump’s comments in three words: “Inappropriate. Undignified. Unpresidential.”
Thursday morning’s tweet storm also fits into Trump’s recently stepped-up crusade against the media in which he has targeted other outlets that he believes are publishing unfair coverage of his administration.
Trump attacked The Washington Post on Wednesday, complaining that the “fake news” newspaper was protecting Amazon from tax liabilities with its coverage.
Representatives for Brzezinski and Scarborough did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hadas Gold, Elana Schor, Kyle Cheney, Austin Wright, Heather Caygle and Diamond Naga Siu contributed to this report.