President Donald Trump's Twitter confrontation with the Morning Joe hosts, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, continued on Friday morning after the Morning Joe co-hosts claimed in a Washington Post opinion piece that Trump's White House aides had tried to blackmail them with a National Enquirer story.
According to Scarborough and Brzezinski, in an op-ed published by the Washington Post on Friday, senior Trump aides, including Trump's senior adviser, Jared Kushner, warned them that the National Enquirer would publish a damaging story about them if they did not apologize to Trump for bashing him on Morning Joe.
Scarborough and Brzezinski said they ignored the threat.
The revelation by the couple was part of their response to Trump's angry tweet on Thursday in which he attacked the MSNBC co-hosts, saying that Brzezinski has a "low IQ" and that he barred her from a party at his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach resort because she was "bleeding badly from a face-lift."The Daily Beast reported that White House officials confirmed that Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser contacted Scarborough and advised him to speak with the president. However, an official denied the allegation that aides had tried to blackmail Scarborough and Brzezinski. The official claimed that Trump aides had not given Scarborough an ultimatum that would justify construing the communication as a blackmail attempt.
"The truth is far more mundane. In this case, Joe was talking to Jared about his relationship with the president and an Enquirer hit piece he was uneasy about," the official reportedly told the Daily Beast.
The National Enquirer published a story earlier this month about Scarborough and Brzezinski's previous relationships that might have been the subject of the reported communication between Trump aides and the MSNBC co-hosts. Although Scarborough and Brzezinski suggested that the article was meant to embarrass them, the tabloid insisted in a statement released on Friday that the accuracy of the article was never in dispute.
"At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story," National Enquirer's statement said. "We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions."
Trump later responded to the allegations by the Morning Joe hosts through his favorite medium, Twitter, at about 9 a.m. on Friday. He claimed that Scarborough called him and asked him to use his influence to stop the National Enquirer from publishing the story about them.
"Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show."Scarborough responded immediately to the tweet, accusing Trump of lying. He insisted that he hadn't spoken with Trump in months, so it couldn't be true that he had called him and begged him to help stop the National Enquirer story.
"Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records... those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months. "Why do you keep lying about things that are so easily disproven? What is wrong with you?"According to Scarborough, Trump had once bragged to him about his friendship with David Pecker, who owns the American Media, Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company, the NY Daily News reported. Citing the example of the Enquirer story that sought to link Senator Ted Cruz with Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated President John F. Kennedy, Scarborough alleged that Trump had used the Enquirer in the past to plant stories to discredit his opponents.
"Donald Trump called me during the campaign and bragged about his friend who runs the National Enquirer," Scarborough said. "There were all these stories that were planted in the National Enquirer for people who Donald Trump wanted to attack."
The National Enquirer reportedly once helped Trump to suppress a story by a former Playboy model about her affair with Trump in 2006. The tabloid reportedly paid Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 to quash the story, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Pecker later admitted in an interview with the New Yorker that he paid McDougal for the story but never ran it. He admitted that he refused to run the story because Trump "is a personal friend of mine," so McDougal "can't be bashing Trump and American Media."
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