Morning Joe Suggests Trump Wants American Journos Jailed or Killed

On Monday’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough and rest of the show’s liberal pundits expressed their extreme frustration with President Trump for one of his Thanksgiving weekend tweets where he criticized CNN International as being “a major source of (Fake) news.” Former Obama White House Press Secretary and guest panelist Josh Earnest responded by lamenting that Trump was “undermin[ing]” “journalists who [are] on the front lines” “risking their lives,” but failed to mention that his former boss spied on several American journalists and press outlets for seeking information on government leaks and even threatened journalists with prosecution for reporting on them. With absolutely no evidence, Scarborough came to the conclusion that Trump’s comments were intended to encourage “tyrants” to “jail” or “do worse” to American reporters because the press “won't kiss [Trump’s] ass every day on the air.”

 

 

After spending some time reading off and criticizing several of Trump’s tweets, the panelists focused in on Trump’s anti-CNN tweet as the the main target of their ire and began to craft the narrative that Trump either doesn’t care about or wants Americans journalists killed in foreign countries:

SCARBOROUGH: So Josh, there, there are, um -- there are a lot of things the President throws out there just to shock and stun people. But let's focus on what is actually very disturbing, and that is a president attacking the free press,-

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -attacking the free press that continues to actually speak truth to power, that actually continues to tell it straight, making mistakes. We all make mistakes from time to time. But, but, but, but -- doing that and actually denigrating the work of reporters who go out every day across the globe, risk their lives -- as Christiane Amanpour put in a tweet showing a camerawoman that got a bullet through her face and died, um, reporting in Bosnia, every single day risk their lives. And here’s Christiane Amanpour [reading tweet]: “If President Trump-

BRZEZINSKI: Wow, she is amazing.

SCARBOROUGH: -knew the facts, he would” have “never have sent” this “tweet. Here is my (late) camerawoman Margaret Moth, who took a bullet in the face” for “covering the facts and truth in Bosnia.-

BRZEZINSKI: God bless you.

SCARBOROUGH: -#FactsFirst.” And this happens so much with reporters across the globe. This happens so much with CNN, which across the globe really is sort of like the BBC is-

EARNEST: [softly] Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -across the globe. But it’s -- again, it’s Donald Trump attacking the free press. [...] Here, this is a challenge to the First Amendment of the United States and a free press. And Republicans and Democrats and independents need to all speak up and speak out. There are some things that we have to be united on. Forget all the other tweets this weekend. Forget the nonsense. Forget the constant noise machine. But when he attacks the free press, when he attacks an independent judiciary, when he attacks our constitutional republic, we've got to speak out together.

After this long set-up, Earnest agreed with Scarborough and made the case that Trump was attacking not just “the free press,” but “a foundation of our democracy”:

These are the foundations of our democracy, and certainly a free press constitutes a foundation of our democracy. [...] [T]hat is a critical element of the successful functioning of our democracy. But, Joe, you raise an important point, which is that there's an important difference between, as outrageous as it is, to attack journalists here in the United States who enjoy the protections of the First Amendment to hold people in power accountable. It is another thing altogether to go out and attack independent, professional journalists who are risking their lives in war zones, in some of the most remote places on the planet, to bring us actual information about what's happening around the world. The kind of information, the kinds of stories that arouse our consciousness, to make sure that the United States and people who live here are aware of what's happening around the world and can respond to it. And so when we saw, for example, a couple of years ago, the crisis around the wave of migrant flows from North Africa and the Middle East, there were journalists who were on the front lines who were risking their lives to tell that story. We needed to know what was happening there. And to undermine them in such a gratuitous, flippant way on Twitter is outrageous for anybody to do, let alone the President of the United States who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Earnest’s unspoken hypocrisy on this point was pretty stunning. It should be no secret to the liberal media that President Obama was a notorious abuser of “the free press.” Under the pretext of going after leakers of classified government documents and information, Obama covertly seized and went through the phone records of both editors and reporters working for the Associated Press, labelled Fox News journalist James Rosen as a “criminal co-conspirator” for his investigative journalism, and even took a New York Times reporter to court on criminal charges for refusing to give up one of his sources. There are additional serious allegations that the Obama administration targeted other reporters and political opponents for surveillance (see here for more on that).

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Obama’s war on the press actually became so intolerable that the Committee to Protect Journalists (which typically does work supporting journalists who face the threat of imprisonment or extrajudicial killing for their reporting) released an extensively detailed report condemning the Obama administration for its gross opposition to transparency and freedom of the press. Its summary tersely states:

U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging open government, but he has fallen short of his promise. Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press. Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government sources from speaking to journalists.

Instead of bringing up any of the above, Scarborough simply let Earnest portray himself as a champion for journalistic freedom. The host then moved on to make his case that Trump’s tweet was really a dog whistle signaling that Trump would be okay with foreign dictators imprisoning and assassinating American journalists:

SCARBOROUGH: So our law enforcement officers, as you said, domestically, they're always gonna do the right thing and they're gonna protect -- they understand the First Amendment. But let's say there's a CNN International reporter or an NBC News reporter that's in Turkey, and maybe they do something that the government doesn't like. Well, they've already got the message and you've got the President of the United States that says this is fake news, this is propaganda. Maybe we throw ‘em in jail. Maybe we do worse. President of the United States isn't gonna mind. Whereas they would know-

BRZEZINSKI: [talking under Joe] This president is a danger.

SCARBOROUGH: -under Barack Obama or under George W. Bush,-

BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] Or any other president of recent memory.

SCARBOROUGH: -don’t screw -- or any other president -- don't screw with the American journalists, ‘cause if you do, you're gonna get a call from the American embassy in five minutes and things are gonna go badly for you very quickly. That message hasn't been sent by an administration-

BRZEZINSKI: The opposite.

SCARBOROUGH: -that doesn't even have ambassadors in these outposts and has now sent a message to tyrants from Turkey to Russia: do what you want with our reporters because we don't like them-

BRZEZINSKI: [talking under Joe] We don't believe them.

SCARBOROUGH: -because they won't kiss our ass every day on the air-

BRZEZINSKI: Okay. Now watch your language.

SCARBOROUGH: -and spew propaganda 24 hours a day-

BRZEZINSKI: That’s a good point.

SCARBOROUGH: -and lie to their viewers about how we’re doing.

Joe didn’t bother to explain what tea leaves he was reading to arrive at his interpretation of Trump’s statement, and no one else on the panel asked. They simply accepted that Trump was tweeting a global death sentence on journalists:

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I'm just hoping that somebody – and I thought it would be the chief of staff – would get this president in check with his tweets before someone gets hurt. And I am dead serious,-

SCARBOROUGH: [interjecting, talking over Mika] Before someone gets hurt.

BRZEZINSKI: -before someone gets hurt or worse.

Is it really so outlandish to Morning Joe that Trump might just not like what CNN says about him? That he doesn’t necessarily want Brian Stelter to star in a modern remake of Midnight Express?

See a partial transcript of the segment below:

6:12 AM EST

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So Josh, there, there are, um -- there are a lot of things the President throws out there just to shock and stun people. But let's focus on what is actually very disturbing, and that is a president attacking the free press,-

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -attacking the free press that continues to actually speak truth to power, that actually continues to tell it straight, making mistakes. We all make mistakes from time to time. But, but, but, but -- doing that and actually denigrating the work of reporters who go out every day across the globe, risk their lives -- as Christiane Amanpour put in a tweet showing a camerawoman that got a bullet through her face and died, um, reporting in Bosnia, every single day risk their lives. And here’s Christiane Amanpour [reading tweet]: “If President Trump-

BRZEZINSKI: Wow, she is amazing.

SCARBOROUGH: -knew the facts, he would” have “never have sent” this “tweet. Here is my (late) camerawoman Margaret Moth, who took a bullet in the face” for “covering the facts and truth in Bosnia.-

BRZEZINSKI: God bless you.

SCARBOROUGH: -#FactsFirst.” And this happens so much with reporters across the globe. This happens so much with CNN, which across the globe really is sort of like the BBC is-

JOSH EARNEST: [softly] Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -across the globe. But it’s -- again, it’s Donald Trump attacking the free press. And there’s so much of this other nonsense. The NFL’s, [waves his hands around] come on, all this other stuff. He's just purposely trying to pick fights. Here, this is a challenge to the First Amendment of the United States and a free press. And Republicans and Democrats and independents need to all speak up and speak out. There are some things that we have to be united on. Forget all the other tweets this weekend. Forget the nonsense. Forget the constant noise machine. But when he attacks the free press, when he attacks an independent judiciary, when he attacks our constitutional republic, we've got to speak out together.

EARNEST: These are the foundations of our democracy, and certainly a free press constitutes a foundation of our democracy. Even the founders of our country envisioned that independent, professional journalists would be in a position to hold people in power accountable for the way that they wielded the power of the American people. And that is, that is a critical element of the successful functioning of our democracy. But, Joe, you raise an important point, which is that there's an important difference between, as outrageous as it is, to attack journalists here in the United States who enjoy the protections of the First Amendment to hold people in power accountable. It is another thing altogether to go out and attack independent, professional journalists who are risking their lives in war zones, in some of the most remote places on the planet, to bring us actual information about what's happening around the world. The kind of information, the kinds of stories that arouse our consciousness, to make sure that the United States and people who live here are aware of what's happening around the world and can respond to it. And so when we saw, for example, a couple of years ago, the crisis around the wave of migrant flows from North Africa and the Middle East, there were journalists who were on the front lines who were risking their lives to tell that story. We needed to know what was happening there. And to undermine them in such a gratuitous, flippant way on Twitter-

SCARBOROUGH: [interjecting] Right! Well- [trails off].

EARNEST: -is outrageous for anybody to do, let alone the President of the United States who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution.

BRZEZINSKI: [talking under Earnest] Ugh, I mean what Republican would say this is okay?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, well, well think about this, Harold, do you remember the Guardian reporter that gotten -- got beaten up by a congressional candidate? The dude was immediately arrested. They cuffed him. They threw him in front of-

HAROLD FORD JR.: [interrupting] You’re talking about the fellow that ran for the United States Congress in [inaudible]?

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, yeah, who, who ultimately won.

FORD: Won, right.

SCARBOROUGH: The guy had mug shots probably within, you know, twelve hours. They, they didn't put up with it. So our law enforcement officers, as you said, domestically, they're always gonna do the right thing and they're gonna protect -- they understand the First Amendment. But let's say there's a CNN International reporter or an NBC News reporter that's in Turkey, and maybe they do something that the government doesn't like. Well, they've already got the message and you've got the President of the United States that says this is fake news, this is propaganda. Maybe we throw ‘em in jail. Maybe we do worse. President of the United States isn't gonna mind. Whereas they would know-

BRZEZINSKI: [talking under Joe] This president is a danger.

SCARBOROUGH: -under Barack Obama or under George W. Bush,-

BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] Or any other president of recent memory.

SCARBOROUGH: -don’t screw -- or any other president -- don't screw with the American journalists, ‘cause if you do, you're gonna get a call from the American embassy in five minutes and things are gonna go badly for you very quickly. That message hasn't been sent by an administration-

BRZEZINSKI: The opposite.

SCARBOROUGH: -that doesn't even have ambassadors in these outposts and has now sent a message to tyrants from Turkey to Russia: do what you want with our reporters because we don't like them-

BRZEZINSKI: [talking under Joe] We don't believe them.

SCARBOROUGH: -because they won't kiss our ass every day on the air-

BRZEZINSKI: Okay. Now watch your language.

SCARBOROUGH: -and spew propaganda 24 hours a day-

BRZEZINSKI: That’s a good point.

SCARBOROUGH: -and lie to their viewers about how we’re doing.

(...)

6:19 AM

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I'm just hoping that somebody – and I thought it would be the chief of staff – would get this president in check with his tweets before someone gets hurt. And I am dead serious,-

SCARBOROUGH: [interjecting, talking over Mika] Before someone gets hurt.

BRZEZINSKI: -before someone gets hurt or worse.

(...)


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