On Thursday’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough doubled down on his promotion of the “girther” conspiracy theory by repeatedly attacking the character and integrity of Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the official Physician to the President. Drawing his points in large part from a Washington Post column written by Dana Milbank, Scarborough unleashed his contempt at Jackson for giving Trump a clean bill of health. Joe labeled the doctor a “shameful” man who “sounded like a sycophant” and used “the words of a political hack.” While this was happening, co-host Mika Brzezinski chimed in occasionally to wonder about whether or not Jackson was lying about his medical report, at one point stating: “It doesn’t sound like he wrote it.”
Although the segment in question began with Scarborough and his fellow panelists insisting that they were not trying to promote “girtherism” or attack Dr. Jackson, Joe apparently couldn’t help himself, declaring almost immediately that “the doctor certainly has taken on the [...] lifeform of other lifeforms inside the Trump White House. He, he sounded like a sycophant. He didn’t sound like a doctor.”
Scarborough then proceeded by reading from or paraphrasing large parts of the Milbank column that he found to be insightful [the transcript below adheres to what Joe said, not necessarily the exact wording of Milbank or Dr. Jackson]:
SCARBOROUGH: Uh, Dana Milbank: I was not alarmed about the president’s health, but the doctor’s. Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson was so effusive in extolling the totally amazing, surpassingly marvelous, superbingly [sic] stupendous and extremely awesome health of the president, the doctor sounded almost Trump-, Trumpian. Quote: The president’s overall health is excellent, he said, excellent eight times: Hands down, there’s no question that he is in the excellent range. . . . I put out the statement that the president’s health is excellent, because his overall health is excellent. . . . Overall, he has very good health. Excellent health.
BRZEZINSKI: It doesn’t sound like he wrote it.
SCARBOROUGH: [continuing to paraphrase/quote Milbank and Jackson] And just how excellent is the excellent Excellency’s health? Incredible cardiac fitness. He has incredible genes. He has incredibly good genes, and it’s just the way God made him. And after Sanjay Gupta pointed out that he was borderline obese, the doctor replied that Trump's heart is in the excellent category. And not just his heart!
[Joe starts to speak in condescending, babying, mocking, whining tone]
The doctor rhapsodized about Trump’s vision, his stamina. He has more energy than just about anybody. And Trump is very sharp, and very, very articulate. . . . Very, very sharp, very intact. . . . Absolutely no cognitive or mental issues whatsever [sic] . . . . The president did exceedingly well. And then they said: Well, but he is borderline obese. To which the doctor said that if he’d eaten better over the past 20 years, he might live to be 200.
Scarborough’s increasingly mocking tone and his inability to accurately read from Milbank’s column got worse and worse until Brzezinski finally stepped in to exclaim: “God, what did he say about Obama?” (Mika was probably referring to Jackson’s time as Obama’s White House physician.) Joe, trying to portray Jackson as being sycophantically pro-Trump, flatly replied: “Uh, the President's, uh, uh, cholesterol is a little high. Uh, he checked out well.” Brzezinski pledged that she was going to “look it up,” and she spent much of the rest of the segment doing so on her smartphone.
At this point, perhaps sensing how far astray he had gone in impugning Jackson’s character, Scarborough half-heartedly threw in some praise for the doctor before continuing to paint him as a bloviator:
SCARBOROUGH: You know, which is, I, I'm sure this guy is a great guy, great physician, blah blah blah. He shouldn't have sounded so Trumpian first of all. And second, Willie,-
BRZEZINSKI: Well, did he write it?
SCARBOROUGH: -he works in a White House where just about everybody who makes public statements lie [sic]. So, if he's shocked that somebody’s going: Eh, okay, well. The White House spokesman said we weren't gonna have a cognitive exam, made a point to say no cog- -- and suddenly we have a cognitive exam? And he can tell what lions and, and, and rhinos and giraffes and little monkeys are? Great, okay. That's fine. Um, but it was -- I don't know. It was, it was Trumpian, to say the least.
Yes Joe, the test that Trump took has questions like that because it’s looking for DEMENTIA, that thing you’ve been saying Trump has for months now. People who are suffering from dementia have trouble answering those simple questions because their minds are deteriorating. As the liberal news site Vox explained [emphasis mine]:
The Montreal Cognitive Assessment, or MoCa, is a tool designed to spot the symptoms of dementia that come with a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. According to Jackson, Trump requested a cognitive test during his annual physical, and is the first president to have undergone one.
To the able-minded, some of the questions might look overly simple or silly. It asks, for instance, for the patient to identify the names of a few animals, and correctly state their date and location. It has basic tasks like counting backwards by seven, and drawing a clock that reads 10 past 11. These are some of the basic mental processes that tragically slip away from people with dementia.
Scarborough’s complete ignorance about dementia is pretty disturbing given his prominent role in pushing the “Trump literally has dementia” conspiracy theory.
Joe wasn’t done with attacking Dr. Jackson’s integrity, however. After reiterating his belief that Trump’s reported weight of 239 pounds must be wrong, Scarborough also went after Jackson for saying that Trump’s sleep habits are not a problem:
SCARBOROUGH: Well, and, do you, do you, do you know what el-, do you know what else is also odd, Willie? You won't find a reputable doctor in America-
BRZEZINSKI: [using smart phone] Yeah, I’m looking for-.
SCARBOROUGH: -that will tell you getting four hours of sleep-
WILLIE GEIST: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: -a night is good for you. They will all say the same thing: Get four hours of sleep a night–over time, your cognitive abilities start to degenerate. Not a single respectable doctor in America would say what he said. So, are we questioning his integrity? No, we're not. I'm just questioning his motivations. I mean, does, maybe he likes eating at the White House mess lot. I don't know why. But, but his own words-
JONATHAN LEMIRE: Yeah, it was-.
SCARBOROUGH: -are not the words of a physician. They're the words of a political hack.
Actually, they’re the words of a real doctor who knows what he’s talking about. While most adults do need roughly 7-9 hours of sleep a night, a small proportion of the population, known as “short-sleepers,” have genes that enable them to get by on 4-6 hours of sleep a night. As reported by the BBC and Business Insider, several current and past world leaders, CEOs, or other elite figures have had this ability. If Trump is a genetically predisposed short-sleeper, then his sleep habits are indeed not a problem, as Dr. Jackson reported.
Scarborough closed out the segment by lambasting Jackson for “whitewashing” Trump’s health:
SCARBOROUGH: He gets four hours of sleep a night. He has one of the highest stress jobs in the world. And for this guy to come out and whitewash all that and say that he's in great shape and -- oh, he could exercise a little bit. Oh, he could do -- but if he ate better, he could live to be 200 years old. What extraordinary genes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
BRZEZINSKI: This is, I think -- point made.
SCARBOROUGH: Come on, that's just shameful.
When even Mika thinks you’ve gone a bit overboard, maybe it’s time to start considering pulling back from the precipice?