In a truly bizarre segment on Thursday’s Morning Joe, hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski seemed completely undisturbed by being told that a government official from the totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea enjoys watching the MSNBC show’s repeated whitewashes of Kim Jong-un’s threats to kill millions of Americans with nukes. Instead of having some sort of long overdue realization that he and Mika have been spewing North Korean propaganda and reversing course, Joe actually suggested that “now is a perfect time [for Kim] to move forward” on developing nuclear weapons because Trump is perceived by the world as a “reckless,” “dangerous,” and “destabilizing” “pariah.”
The segment began as strangely as it ended. In a special report from NBC News, foreign correspondent Keir Simmons laid out all of the synchronous thinking between Morning Joe’s hosts and North Korean government and military officials:
Mika, good morning from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, known to you and me as North Korea, where we are quickly learning that President Trump's rhetoric is having a profound effect. Officials who we speak to quickly want to talk about President Trump and ask us about President Trump. The Vice Foreign Minister telling us that he believes the region is on the brink of war. If that is the case, then this, perhaps, is the front line. We are right on the border here between the North and the South. I spoke to one Lieutenant Colonel who is based here. I asked him: what do you think of President Trump? He, quite plainly, said he believes that President Trump is mentally ill and he was unequivocal in saying that he believes North Korea could win a war with America.
Being no doubt that the senior officials here pay attention to what is being said in the U.S., one telling me that he watches Morning Joe every day, specifically, the segments about North Korea, about the DPRK, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. I asked that official, who is the father of a young son, I said to him, are you frightened for your family with what you are seeing happening right now? And you know, Mika, what he said to me, he said: all my life, I have felt threatened by America. And if there is a war, a nuclear war, he said, he believes that North Korea and the North Koreans could survive that. Mika?
Of course, just because North Korean officials watch some U.S. news broadcast or TV show, that does not mean that the program is necessarily doing something wrong. In reality, top North Korean government officials probably consume a wide variety of U.S. news media to gauge how the American public is reacting to the DPRK’s provocations.
Nevertheless, as Simmons made clear, the North Koreans he spoke to have eerily similar opinions to Morning Joe’s hosts and panelists. Whether it’s attacking Trump for pledging to defend both America and our allies in East Asia and painting him as a genocidal dictator, failing to assign any moral responsibility to Kim for his belligerence, or even having Nicholas Kristof on to praise North Korea’s supposed economic liberalization, Morning Joe’s coverage of North Korea has been a steady stream of incredible hackery. It was disturbing to see Scarborough and company react with joviality to Simmons’s revelations:
BRZEZINSKI: Keir Simmons, thank you very much. And Joe, a couple things that come to mind here. First of all, they're saying what a lot of people are thinking, that the President is mentally ill. It's considered inappropriate to say.
SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting, joking] I was gonna say, I was gonna say, Mika, you’ve got a mind meld with some people in North Korea.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, look, there is definitely a lot lacking from his personality. My biggest concern that I think is appropriate to say is you think about the missions we have in places like Niger and there is no way that President Trump has the intellectual capacity to even understand what we are doing, which I think brings the possibility of war even closer to the forefront. I think we're in a very dangerous place. I think the President is a very dangerous man because of his lackings.
SCARBOROUGH: I’ve gotta just say as a side note, Willie, who did we say our demographic was going to be when we started Morning Joe? Who did we say we wanted to watch the show?
WILLIE GEIST: [joking] We’re big on the peninsula is what you always said. We’re big on the peninsula.
SCARBOROUGH: [playing along with joke] Yeah, we wanted to be, I said if we're big on the peninsula, if North Korean leaders watch us, then we'll be good in Peoria, and ten years later, voila, here we are.
Instead of engaging in any sort of deeper introspection about why their opinions are at the point of “mind-meld[ing]” with people like Kim Jong-un, Joe and Mika just continued to say that Trump was a “dangerous” and “destabilizing” force in the world while only Geist had some sort of brief realization that being popular in North Korea was odd:
GEIST: That was a little bizarre, wasn't it? You know, the thing with Donald Trump is that he's played the insult game to great effect to become President of the United States. The problem now, as Mika suggests, is that we're not talking about Marco Rubio's size or Jeb Bush's energy, we're talking about a leader who very much enjoys, in Kim Jong-un, being elevated to the top of the world stage by Donald Trump with his insults.
SCARBOROUGH: [tries to interrupt] Right, and you know-
GEIST: It also confirms everything they’ve been told in schools for generations as they grew up, that South Korea and America are conspiring, be ready for military action at any moment. Now they are being validated because President Trump says these things,
BRZEZINSKI: [talking under Geist] Who slips, because he’s a child.
GEIST: -and they say: see, we have been telling you all along, here it comes, get ready.
SCARBOROUGH: And if you’re North Korea, now is a perfect time to move forward, because on the world stage, instead of Kim Jong-un being the pariah, instead of Kim Jong-un being seen as the reckless, the reckless person who is destabilizing the world order, now you have people across the world looking at Donald Trump thinking he is the reckless one, destabilizing world order. And you’re starting to hear more and more people say: well, it seems kinda rational that North Korea is racing towards a nuclear weapon. All because of Donald Trump's unsteady hand in the Oval Office.
Russia and China, North Korea’s two strongest defenders, have criticized Trump’s rhetoric asserting the right to “totally destroy” North Korea in self-defense and continue to insist that diplomacy is the only solution to the conflict, but both countries have also criticized North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests as dangerously heightening tensions. Practically no country wants North Korea to continue with its aggressive behavior, even if some still equivocate between U.S. and North Korean actions at times.
Joe’s dishonest portrayal of the world’s view of Kim and Trump was not simply untrue, it was dangerous. The American public deserves better information about this crisis, and it doesn’t appear that they’ll be able to get it on Morning Joe anytime soon.