Exclusive: Mika Speaks! A Day After Trump’s Horrific Tweet, Brzezinski Reveals How It All Went Down – Vanity Fair
At 6:56 A.M. on Friday morning, Mika Brzezinski was hustling down a fluorescent-lit hallway at 30 Rock, en route from the makeup room to the set of Morning Joe. Joe Scarborough, her co-host and recently unveiled fiancé, was trailing slightly behind her. The two anchors had intended on taking the day off in order to commence the July Fourth holiday a little early, but all planning had been thrown out the window some 24 hours earlier. On Thursday morning, of course, President Donald Trump had sent the news cycle into convulsions, and Washington into disarray, by tweeting that “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she and “Psycho Joe” visited him at Mar-a-Lago around New Year’s Eve.
The series of tweets immediately struck a nerve. Rival networks expressed their support for the anchors; a slew of Republican lawmakers, including Paul Ryan, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse, and Lisa Murkowski, spoke out against the tweet. Brzezinski responded, at first, by tweeting an image of the back of a box of Cheerios depicting a boy with small hands—a reference to Spy magazine, which famously called Trump a short-fingered vulgarian. (Graydon Carter, Spy’s co-founder, is the editor of Vanity Fair.) Subsequently, she and Scarborough composed an op-ed for The Washington Post to run Friday morning declaring that “America’s leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president. We have our doubts, but we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show.” Meanwhile, both decided to address the furor at the top of the 7 A.M. hour on Friday morning.
As they walked to the set, the newsroom seemed to orbit around them. A huddled scrum of colleagues applauded Brzezinski as she entered the set. Katy Tur, the NBC correspondent who had appeared on the first hour of Morning Joe on Friday, asked Brzezinski if she could give her a hug. The panel awaiting them around the glass desk—including Willie Geist, Katty Kay, and Donny Deutsch—resounded with choruses of “you go, girls,” jokes about a missed day off, and a smattering of hugs. As a gaggle of contributors, producers, and support staff gathered to watch what Brzezinski would say, one nearby P.R. person noted that she expected they would be on for seven or eight minutes.
They stayed on for a little more than a half-hour, with no commercial breaks. “It’s unbelievably alarming that this president is so easily played,” Brzezinski said to the camera at one point. “He’s so easily played—by a cable news host. What is this saying to our allies? What is this saying to our enemies?” Scarborough echoed her concern. “We’re O.K. The country is not.”
They shared a story about how top White House aides warned them that the National Enquirer, owned by Trump’s longtime friend David Pecker, would publish a negative story about them unless they called the president and asked him to get it killed. (The president later tweeted what appeared to be a confirmation. “He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no!” he wrote. Scarborough responded that this was “yet another lie.”)
Afterward, they walked off set to more claps and made their way through high-fives and fist bumps to a small hair-washing room across the hallway. Brzezinski, in jeans and tennis shoes, perched on a makeup ledge in front of a wall of mirrors, and took a breath. It had been nearly 24 hours since the president thrust personal details about her—incorrect ones, she contends—into the national spotlight. She had a feeling that the jokes she had made on air on Thursday would “tweak” the president, but she was searching for a “moment of levity,” she said.
She hadn’t seen the president’s tweets herself until she looked over at Geist on the set, who she said was looking at something on his phone and kind of angling it away from her. Her producer then told her in her ear to stay where she was; he needed to show her something.
“I said, ‘Guys! What did he tweet?’ Willie showed me, and I started laughing, and said, ‘Shit. I kind of wanted to keep that to myself,’” she said, referring to the procedure she had undergone to tighten the skin under her neck. “I had a turkey neck. My mom told me to get it done,” she explained. “I was FaceTiming all my friends, telling them to get it done, that it wasn’t so bad.”
She said that she had told Melania Trump about the procedure when the couple stopped by Mar-a-Lago on New Year’s Eve. “The irony of it all is that Donald kept saying, ‘That’s incredible. You can’t even tell. Who did it? Who did it?’ He kept asking for the name of the doctor. He literally asked 10 times. ‘Is he down here? Who is he?’” Scarborough recalled. (A spokesman from the White House declined to comment.)
In the wake of the president’s tweets, the co-hosts said their staff went quiet. “It was like they were at a funeral,” Scarborough said. “We realize we had to tell everyone we were fine with this, but they were all gone by the time we went out. They were spooked.”
It wasn’t the first time the co-hosts and their staff had to react to being on the other end of the president’s ire. Last summer, he tweeted that Brzezinski was “a neurotic and not very bright mess!” and threatened to “tell the real story” about their relationship.
Afterward, they said that the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, brokered a meeting with the four of them. Brzezinski said she explained that the tweet had caused a lot of hurt to her children and family. Trump, she said, apologized.
“Jared said we should end the meeting right then and there, because it was one of the only times he had heard him apologize,” Scarborough said. (A White House spokesman had no comment about this meeting and the apology.)
They are not holding their breath for a “sorry” this go-round. “We would take these insults seriously from anyone else,” Scarborough said. “We don’t from him, because, unfortunately, we believe he is in decline.”