‘Morning Joe’ Hosts and Trump Bring National Enquirer Into Their Feud

‘Morning Joe’ Hosts and Trump Bring National Enquirer Into Their Feud

The co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,’’ Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, defended themselves on Friday against President Trump’s Twitter attack the day before, with Ms. Brzezinski saying that President Trump’s tweets targeting her betrayed “a fragile, childlike ego” that was a profound concern.

“We’re O.K. The country’s not,” Mr. Scarborough added.

The two hosts also injected an element of supermarket tabloid intrigue by asserting that top White House aides had contacted them to say that they could prevent The National Enquirer from publishing a negative article about them if they called the president, apologized for criticizing him on their show and asked for his forgiveness.

Mr. Trump soon fired back with a rejoinder, posting on Twitter that it was the other way around — that Mr. Scarborough had initiated an attempt to stop the Enquirer story — which the host then denied in a tweet of his own, saying he had records to prove he was right.

The exchange kept the spotlight on the coarse and personal criticism Mr. Trump directed at the two hosts on Thursday, when the president described Ms. Brzezinski as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and claimed that she had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a social gathering at Mr. Trump’s resort in Florida around New Year’s Eve.

In a deeply divided capital, Mr. Trump’s attack managed to unite lawmakers of both parties in condemning his remarks, and news organizations (even Trump-friendly ones) also rebuked the president. And the personal nature of his attack on Ms. Brzezinski revived the controversy over Mr. Trump’s attitude toward women.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post on Friday, Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough, who are engaged to be married, said Mr. Trump’s tweets represented a “continued mistreatment of women” and they underscored that theme on their show as well.

“I’m concerned about the messages that are being sent by this president,” Mr. Scarborough said. “You have women who are being constantly degraded.”

“It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women,” they wrote. “From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children.”

The White House did not explain what had prompted Mr. Trump’s outburst, but a spokeswoman said the president was entitled to fight back against those in the media who he felt attacked him unfairly.

Perhaps the most striking part of the two hosts’ pushback was their claim that the White House tried to leverage a planned article in The National Enquirer to get them to apologize to the president for their comments about him.

Mr. Scarborough said they were repeatedly told that if they called the president and apologized for their coverage, Mr. Trump would intervene on their behalf. “We ignored their desperate pleas,” they wrote.

After the show aired, the fight moved to Twitter. Mr. Trump fired a volley, tweeting that he had watched the “low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time” and called it “FAKE NEWS.”

Referring to Mr. Scarborough, he wrote: “He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show”

Mr. Scarborough responded within minutes, denying Mr. Trump’s claim.

And again:

In a statement, The National Enquirer defended an earlier story on Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough and said it had “absolutely no involvement” in any discussions between the co-hosts and the White House.

“At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story,” said Dylan Howard, the vice president of news for American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s publisher.

In their op-ed, Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough disputed the details of Mr. Trump’s Thursday tweets.

His claim that Ms. Brzezinski was bleeding from a face-lift was “a lie,” they wrote, adding: “Mr. Trump claims that we asked to join him at Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row. That is false. He also claimed that he refused to see us. That is laughable.”

They wrote: “And though it is no one’s business, the president’s petulant personal attack against yet another woman’s looks compels us to report that Mika has never had a face-lift. If she had, it would be evident to anyone watching ‘Morning Joe’ on their high-definition TV.”

Ms. Brzezinski did have a “little skin under her chin tweaked,” but it was not a secret, they wrote.

The co-hosts were scheduled to be on vacation on Friday but delayed their plans to appear on the show to respond to the president’s tweets.

Until recently, the president had a friendly relationship with the hosts, who were criticized during the campaign for their closeness to the candidate.

In recent months, however, the pair have excoriated Mr. Trump on the air, denouncing his behavior and questioning his mental health — criticisms the president views as a personal betrayal, according to a senior administration official.

Last month, Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough told Vanity Fair that the president had offered to officiate at their wedding and host it at the White House or Mar-a-Lago. (Ms. Brzezinski said her answer to that was, “If it weren’t Trump, it might be something to think about.”)

Mr. Trump’s invective threatened to further erode his support among Republican women and independents, both among voters and on Capitol Hill, where he needs negotiating leverage for the stalled Senate health care bill.

A spokeswoman for the president, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, on Thursday urged the news media to move on. She argued during the White House briefing that Mr. Trump was “fighting fire with fire” by attacking a longtime critic.

A slew of Republicans criticized the president’s comments.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska tweeted: “Stop it! The presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down.”


Published at Fri, 30 Jun 2017 17:23:20 +0000

What Divided the Cosby Jurors? Words, for One Thing

One hurdle prosecutors had to clear to secure a conviction of Bill Cosby was obvious from the start of his sexual assault trial. The credibility of the complainant, Andrea Constand, who had continued contact with him after the night she says she was drugged and assaulted, would be critical.

Less obvious was another point of contention that would entangle the jurors during their 52 hours of deliberations — the not-so-simple meaning of words.

What is meant, the jurors asked, by the term “unconscious” in the law against aggravated indecent assault? Did that mean she had to be out cold during an assault, or simply incapable of giving consent?

And when Judge Steven T. O’Neill said the panel might need to find Mr. Cosby’s behavior “reckless” to find him guilty, what exactly did he mean?

“We spent all our time trying to figure out the wording,” said one of the jurors, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to protect his privacy. “It all came down to the wording.”

Much is unclear about what happened in the jury room during the Cosby case, which ended with a hung jury and a mistrial. But two jurors who spoke to The New York Times said a great deal of their time was spent parsing — and disagreeing about — the meaning of words and phrases like “unconscious,” “reasonable doubt” and “without her knowledge.”

“There were other issues, but it was definitely prevalent,” said Bobby Dugan, one of the jurors.

Experts say wording disputes within juries are not rare — that one of the trickiest tasks for jurors is matching the visceral intensity of some testimony with the bloodless language of the law.

“They are tricky concepts and in very abstract terms, and that is one of the difficulties that jurors often have with jury instructions, especially in trying to make that jump from the technical abstract language,” said Paula L. Hannaford-Agor, director of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts. Several studies have documented that jurors can have a hard time grasping the language of the so-called jury “charge,” the instructions that judges give to panels before deliberations begin.

Now, as prosecutors prepare to retry Mr. Cosby, experts said they would have to consider not only how well Ms. Constand gave her account, but also whether their own words to the new jurors could avoid the confusion that seems to have plagued at least some of the old.

“Hopefully, the second time around, they can figure out a better way of connecting the dots for the jury,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a professor of law at Northwestern University and a former prosecutor. She said that while the jurors might have found Ms. Constand credible, ”they couldn’t match up what she was telling them with the precise language.”

Reports from jurors have differed, with some saying that the panel of 12 had been totally split, and another suggesting that Mr. Cosby narrowly escaped conviction because of two holdouts who could not be persuaded of his guilt. Mr. Dugan said he would only discuss his own deliberations, and that he had voted to convict Mr. Cosby of two counts of sexual assault but not a third, which accused Mr. Cosby of penetrating Ms. Constand while she was “unconscious.”

Mr. Cosby has admitted the penetration but says that Ms. Constand was awake and consenting.

Ms. Constand testified to slipping in and out of consciousness after digesting three pills given to her by Mr. Cosby. She said she was jolted awake after the penetration occurred, was aware of Mr. Cosby’s fingers moving inside her, but still felt “frozen” and could not stop him. The jury charge included an explanation that, to find Mr. Cosby guilty, the jury would not have to agree that Ms. Constand was continuously unconscious but that she was at all times too impaired to be able to consent.

“She was saying she does not remember when she passed out,” Mr. Dugan said, “but she does remember waking up to Mr. Cosby sexually assaulting her, then she went back to sleep. I didn’t think if you have such a shock to your system that you would fall right back to sleep.” So she could not have been unconscious, he said.

Barbara Ashcroft, a former prosecutor who teaches at the Temple University Beasley School of Law, said the jurors “had an image of someone unconscious on a hospital bed, but unconscious in legal terms can mean being unable to give consent.”

Similarly, the jurors puzzled over a phrase in another of the criminal counts, which accused Mr. Cosby of providing Ms. Constand with impairing drugs “without her knowledge.”

Ms. Constand said she had knowingly taken the pills, though she and prosecutors argued that Mr. Cosby lied about what they were — suggesting that they were herbal supplements, when in fact, the prosecutors said, they were some kind of impairing sedative. (Mr. Cosby said that he did not tell Ms. Constand what they were and later testified that they were Benadryl.)

At one point during deliberations, the jurors asked Judge O’Neill to clarify what the phrase “without her knowledge” meant, but he said he could not.

Experts said that while judges had some responsibility to clarify the law for jurors at the time of instruction, too much interpretation of language after that could be seen as interference or coaching from the bench.

“The jurors are the ones who have to somehow interpret these unfamiliar terms and apply them to the facts of the case,” said Valerie Hans, a professor at Cornell Law School who has studied and written about juror behavior.

During his two-hour closing argument, the Montgomery County district attorney, Kevin R. Steele, worked to make plain the links between the testimony and the language of the law. He checked off that Mr. Cosby said that he never told Ms. Constand what the pills he gave her were. He described her rubbery legs and blurred vision, which he said would suggest that she was substantially impaired. And he said that the law did not require Ms. Constand to be literally unconscious during the entire encounter, just to lack knowledge or awareness of an assault during portions of it.

At a news conference after the mistrial was declared, Mr. Steele said his office would review the way it presented the case as part of its preparations for the retrial.

Kate Delano, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said that last year the office handled 99 sex crimes cases, and successfully prosecuted more than 90 percent of them. “Clearly, jurors in those cases understood the charges and the language related to the law,” she said.

Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania’s victim advocate, said that in her experience, jurors cited confusion over language more often in sexual assault cases.

Such encounters are rarely witnessed by other people, she said, and jurors can have widely varied predispositions about what sort of a person is likely to be credible and what sort of behavior constitutes consent. Pressed to decide, jurors uncomfortable in voting to convict might seize upon a language issue to explain their reluctance, she said.

“They can conveniently use it as a scapegoat for their own preconceived notions,” Ms. Storm said.


Published at Fri, 30 Jun 2017 15:45:05 +0000