Joe Scarborough’s reversal on Donald Trump is complete.
In an editorial published in the Washington Post on Wednesday, Scarborough called for the Republican Party to drop him as its nominee. This comes after Trump has already been officially nominated and after Scarborough spent months on his Morning Joe program and in other formats boosting Trump with softball interviews and glorifying his polling success.
“The Republican Party needs to start examining quickly their options for removing the Republican nominee,” the MSNBC host wrote a bit too late. The final straw? Trump’s comments that have been widely interpreted to “jokingly” advocate for the assassination of Hillary Clinton or her federal judges.
“A bloody line has been crossed that cannot be ignored,” Scarborough wrote. “At long last, Donald Trump has left the Republican Party few options but to act decisively and get this political train wreck off the tracks before something terrible happens.”
Scarborough’s turnaround on the issue of “is Trump worth treating like the dangerous person that he is” was the final step in a monthslong transition that started in the spring only after Trump had effectively secured the nomination.
Prior to May, the former U.S. congressman was seen to have been one of Trump’s biggest backers in the media. He regularly boasted of his early predictions that Trump would win the nomination and often had Trump on as a guest for sessions that were described by independent media critics as love-fests.
In December, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple watched the previous Morning Joe interview sessions with Trump and reported back that “the central theme is bonhomie”:
Ever since mid-June, “Morning Joe” has had a blast yukking it up with Donald Trump. The laughs, giggles and chuckles come when Trump tells a joke; they come when he makes an outlandish claim; they come when he introduces himself to the program over the phone, “Good morning, darling”; they come when the topic is one of his competitors or when the topic is a man in Trump’s company who is making a valiant attempt to learn English but hasn’t yet reached the level of “Ernest Hemingway” or when the topic is Trump’s “vision.”
In February, Scarborough and his MSNBC co-host Mika Brzezinski hosted a town hall that Slate’s Isaac Chotiner panned as “disgraceful” for its softball approach. And it turned out that the hosts had actually joked about how much of a softball event it was going to be with the candidate himself beforehand.
A typical exchange:
Trump: “Just make us all look good.”
Another typical one:
Brzezinski: “Do you not want me to do, the um, the [questions] with, um, deportation?”
Scarborough: “We really do have to go to some questions.”
Trump: “Nothing too hard, Mika.”
(Deportation was not discussed in that town hall.)
It was during this hot-mic interaction that Trump told the pair, “I watched your show this morning. You have me almost as a legendary figure, I like that.”
In a brutal Rolling Stones column, Matt Taibbi not inaccurately referred to this episode as more evidence that Scarborough was “Trump’s favorite lapdog.”
CNN’s Dylan Byers, meanwhile, reported around that time that MSNBC insiders viewed Scarborough as “promoting” Trump in an “over the top” and “unseemly” way. In March, Gawker reported on how Scarborough and Brzezinski had called Trump to express their deepest gratitude to the Republican nominee, reportedly for charitable donations he had made to a project that they had worked on.
The puffy approach led Trump to tell the duo on the air in February, “You guys have been supporters and I really appreciate it.” (He immediately amended that to say, “Not necessarily supporters but at least believers.” But the mutual gratitude between both parties was obvious throughout the winter.)
Trump had said horrible things about women, immigrants, Muslims, pretty much anyone you can think of well before that time, so what was it that changed exactly and when did it change?
The first signs of trouble in paradise occurred in May, the day after Trump effectively secured the nomination by winning the May 3 Indiana primary. As Politico documented, it unfolded like this: Trump boasted of an upcoming appearance on Morning Joe in a May 4 tweet; two days later he complained that the “rapidly fading” show was “pushing hard” for a third-party conservative challenge to Trump; on May 9, Trump said the show had “gone really hostile” and that he wasn’t going to do the show anymore (he did the show again a short time later, but then stopped).
By June, Trump was saying, “Mika has gone wild with hate” and the show’s hosts had “lost their way.”
Now that Trump is publicly feuding with Scarborough and his crew, and now that Morning Joe has reaped the ratings rewards of favored access, and now that it’s too late for the GOP to do anything about the Trump nomination, Scarborough is speaking out loudly.
On Monday’s show, Scarborough issued this admonishment to other Republicans he accused of facilitating Trump’s rise:
You are letting Donald Trump destroy the party. And you’ve done it from the beginning. We’ve said from the very beginning when he started blowing himself up.
That’s what we like to call chutzpah.