For much of Donald Trump’s controversial presidential campaign, the Republican candidate has had what looked like a very cozy relationship with a number of conservative media outlets, including the Morning Joe talk show on MSNBC. But that appears to have been strained to the breaking point by some of Trump’s comments about race, including his recent remarks about a federal judge.
On Monday morning, the members of the Morning Joe panel—former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough; Mika Brzezinski, daughter of a former national security advisor, Reverend Al Sharpton and former Bush administration PR chief Nicolle Wallace—talked about Trump’s belief that Judge Gonzalo Curiel is being unfair to him in a case involving his failed university.
The candidate has said that he believes the judge is biased against him because Curiel’s family background is Mexican, and therefore he is opposed to Trump’s plan for a wall aimed at keeping out illegal immigrants from that country. On Sunday, Trump told the CBS show Face the Nation on Sunday that he believed a Muslim judge would likely be biased against him, because of his call to ban Muslim immigration.
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After listening to these comments, Brzezinski asked the panel: “Can I just do a poll? Is that racism?” And before the question was even put to him, Scarborough jumped in and said: “It’s completely racist. Here you have a guy that is from Indiana—I think his family, if I’m not mistaken, has been in the country longer than Trump’s grandmother.”
The Morning Joe host went on to say that Republicans should have known what they were in for because of Trump’s previous comments about Muslims. “They can’t be morally outraged this week when they knew what he was doing last week,” he said. “I said, all the way back in December, I would never endorse Donald Trump so long as he supported banning 1.4 million people for entering the last best hope for a dying world, the United States of America, simply because of the god they worship.”
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This kind of head-on attack against Trump is a fairly dramatic change for the MSNBC show, since not that long ago Morning Joe was being widely criticized for its overly friendly relationship with the former reality-TV host. At one point in February, the Republican candidate thanked the hosts for their support. “You guys have been supporters, and I really appreciate it,” he said. In another case, he appeared to ask Brzezinski for softball questions.
According to a CNN report in February, Scarborough’s friendship with Trump had become an “increasing source of discomfort” at NBC. And as recently as last month, Jonah Goldberg of National Review wrote about how Morning Joe‘s “Trump worship” had made the show unwatchable. Goldberg said that the hosts “have taken to insufferable gloating about their prescience and condescending snootiness aimed at anyone or anything that might disrupt the Trump narrative they’ve bought into and helped to create.”
One tipping point for the Trump/Morning Joe relationship appears to have been Scarborough’s repeated critical comments about Trump’s stance on Muslim immigration, and the candidate’s anger stepped up a notch after the host promoted the idea of an independent Republican candidate who could take on Trump. Last month, Trump took a shot at Scarborough on Twitter, saying Morning Joe had “gone really hostile,” and he posted a similar comment just a few days ago.
It’s possible that Trump has decided to break his ties with the show because he believes he has enough support to get the nomination already, and doesn’t need Morning Joe’s support any more. But it’s also possible that Trump’s openly racist views on immigration have started to become more of a sticking point for some conservatives than they have been in the past, including Scarborough. If true, that could mean more turbulence for the Trump campaign as the election approaches.