In furtherance to previous admissions by Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that they have advised President-elect Donald Trump while reporting scoops and exclusives on the transition, a new MSNBC ad campaign for the show makes those already unsubtle connections even more blatant — calling the hosts' respect for journalistic ethics into serious question.
Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have faced harsh criticism over the ethical entanglements implicit in their overly-friendly coverage of President-elect Donald Trump, particularly in light of their recent admissions that they have acted as advisors to Trump while reporting out campaign and transition "exclusives" often attributed to unnamed sources.
Hadas Gold at Politico noted that Trump gave Morning Joe "an instant connection to the biggest political phenomenon of the year," and that the campaign appreciated that Scarborough and Brzezinski "never wrote off their candidate, as other media did."
This symbiotic relationship between the president-elect and the news anchors was already troubling enough, as it would seem to be a clear violation of journalistic ethics and standards of objectivity and honesty. Acting as advisors to Trump, and as sounding boards at the president-elect's beck and call, puts Scarborough and Brzezinski in a position to be easily influenced by the Trump team's whim and spin.
Now, Gold has a new report on the disturbing way MSNBC is now framing the show's unusual access to the incoming administration for their audience:
One television commercial features images of “Morning Joe” with a narrator saying the show "has the inside track … getting the inside story before it breaks” as clips of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski run, saying “Joe was first to report” and “People very close to Donald Trump ...,” adding that the show reports "from Pennsylvania Avenue to Fifth Avenue, and every main street in between."
A print ad goes even further — a photo of Scarborough and Brzezinski with the words “Daily intelligence briefings happen here."
Having access to sources who can provide an anchor or reporter with exclusive information is not necessarily a worrying concept in itself — indeed, it is prevalent among news media of all stripes.
But this situation is thoroughly different: Anchors on a highly-rated, well-regarded news program who have openly discussed their close relationship with the then-candidate, now President-elect, and soon to be President, mendaciously offering ostensibly straight news coverage of the campaign and now the White House transition while being dismissive and disdainful toward any and all criticism.
And instead of being mindful about the ethical quandary that arises from such a scenario — one which ought to give pause to anyone who values a free and fair press — MSNBC is instead touting Scarborough's and Brzezinski's closeness to Trump as a selling point, and as purely a benefit with no possible downside.
The issue of potential influence from Trump and his team, and of whether those exclusive scoops and first reportings are truly objective or if they are being shaped by the transition team to be more pleasing to the president-elect, is apparently not of much concern to the Morning Joe team or their corporate network bosses.
But it ought to be. And it ought to alarm anyone paying attention.
After all, Trump has consistently evinced a clear hostility toward much of the press when they are simply doing their jobs. And in the past, there have been decidedly contentious relations between Trump and the Morning Joe hosts, including Scarborough's comparison of Trump's policies to Nazi Germany and Trump insulting Brzezinski as "crazy" and "dumb."
But after a few conversations, including a meeting in the president-elect's gilded home in Trump Tower, the hosts' coverage has taken a pointedly positive turn, for which Trump, in turn, has conveyed nothing but appreciation, signaling that something other than objective news coverage is going on at Morning Joe.
And MSNBC's new ad campaign does nothing to refute or even recognize that blatant implication.