White House Defends Trump Attacks on MSNBC Host Mika BrzezinskiBy
Trump calls her ‘crazy’ and ‘bleeding badly’ from ‘facelift’
Ryan says presidential tweet not ‘an appropriate comment’
The White House defended President Donald Trump’s tweets attacking MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski despite criticism from Republican lawmakers that the personal jabs about a woman’s looks were unworthy of the presidency.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the American people got “a fighter” when they elected Trump and rejected the idea that the president should be held to a higher standard of conduct.
“They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump and he won overwhelmingly," Sanders said at the White House daily briefing.
On Twitter Thursday, Trump called Brzezinski “crazy” and said she had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when he refused to see her in December. Brzezinski hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough and while she criticized Trump’s behavior as chief executive on the program Thursday, it wasn’t clear what triggered Trump’s reaction.
Sanders said Trump has been “attacked mercilessly” on the program and that “he’s not going to sit back and be attacked by the liberal media, Hollywood elites.”
Republican lawmakers began to distance themselves from the statement almost as soon as Trump posted it.
“Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in a tweet.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said, “Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment.” Speaking at a press conference, he added, “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.”
Republican former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said in a tweet Trump’s statement was “Inappropriate. Undignified. Unpresidential.” Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters Trump’s remark was “blatantly sexist” and “really sad.”
Trump’s tweets have caused headaches for Republicans, some of whom have expressed weariness of defending a president who has often cast aside the traditional norms of his office with explosive Twitter attacks. The president’s willingness to use Twitter to single out American citizens for personal attacks, threaten countries or companies and perpetuate falsehoods has undermined his ability to enact his agenda.
The president’s barrage against Brzezinski touched a particular political vulnerability for Republican members of Congress as the party has had trouble winning over female voters and sustained criticism that its leaders aren’t sensitive to women’s concerns.
Trump’s attacks on media have been a staple since his presidential campaign, but he has been ratcheting up criticism with increasingly heated statements on his Twitter account. On Wednesday, he attacked “#AmazonWashingtonPost” as “the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should)” and “FAKE NEWS!” White House spokesmen declined to elaborate on what tax issue Trump was describing in his statement.
Scarborough and Brzezinski once had a friendly relationship with Trump, with the real-estate mogul frequently calling in to their television show during the presidential campaign. He even offered to host their wedding at the White House. But he since has been angered by the two hosts’ public criticism of his conduct in office.
“I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore),” Trump said on Twitter. “Then 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!”
“This is not okay,” Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins of Kansas said on Twitter. “As a female in politics I am often criticized for my looks. We should be working to empower women.”
‘This Has to Stop’
“This has to stop,” Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said on Twitter. “We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.”
“Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office,” Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said on Twitter Thursday.
A senior vice president at NBC News, Mark Kornblau, also responded to the president’s attack: “Never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.”’
Shortly after Trump’s tweet, Brzezinski posted a photo on her Twitter feed of an advertisement for the breakfast cereal Cheerios showing the slogan “Made for Little Hands.”
The photo appeared to be a reference to a long-running insult that has been lobbed against Trump for supposedly having small hands. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida resurfaced that charge during a presidential primary debate, and Trump responded with an angry, extended rebuttal.
First lady Melania Trump said before the election she would use her role to highlight the negative impact of cyberbullying, though there’s been no details released about what she plans to do. Asked for a response to the president’s attack on Brzezinski on Thursday, her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said: "As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder."
Trump has had a history of personal attacks on print and television reporters.
As a candidate, he mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital disability limiting the function of his joints. Trump criticized Kovaleski at a campaign rally while jerking his arms in front of his body, in apparent imitation of a movement disorder the condition causes.
He also used graphic imagery to attack then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly after a presidential campaign debate, with comments many interpreted as suggesting she had been in a poor mood because of her menstrual cycle.
He told CNN, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
He later told ABC News that he meant Kelly’s nose when he said “wherever.”
— With assistance by Margaret Talev, and Justin Sink