"Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist ripped American media outlets that wrote glowingly about Kim Jong Un's sister during her visit to South Korea for the Winter Olympics, saying South Koreans told him they found the press' fascination with her "mind-boggling."
A variety of media outlets drew criticism for writing warmly about Kim Yo Jong, a director of propaganda for the rogue country, with several stories noting she smiled a lot as part of a "charm offensive." She is North Korea's propaganda and agitation director, playing a key role in the cult of personality around her brother's dictatorship.
Despite this and North Korea's abysmal human rights record, CNN declared Kim Yo Jong was "stealing the show" at the Olympics, and Reuters penned a piece quoting analysts as saying North Korea was going for a "diplomacy gold medal." The New Republic‘s Jeet Heer called the North Korean charm offensive "surprisingly successful."
"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough noted with disdain that a North Korean "mania" had swept some of the media, but he complimented Geist, who appeared live on the show from South Korea, for his tweet over the weekend pushing back.
I can report South Koreans here in Pyeongchang are not as enthralled with Kim Yo Jong and the North Korean cheerleaders as it seems some media are back home.
Something about N.K. killing, starving, & imprisoning its people while threatening South Korea with nuclear annihilation.
— Willie Geist (@WillieGeist) February 11, 2018
"I'm not sure Americans grasp how quickly some of those pieces were circulating here at the Olympics," Geist said. "There were a couple of major outlets that were writing fluff pieces about Kim Jong Un's sister who'd come here, saying she's the new Ivanka Trump and all these odd comparisons they were making to someone who is the head of propaganda, was under U.N. sanction for helping to run North Korea's political prison program."
Geist said South Koreans he spoke to couldn't believe Americans were "falling for this routine, because none of us are." He said they did understand some diplomacy needed to be conducted by South Korean president Moon Jae-in but they were left confused by the American media's fascination.
"To see an ally, at least some members of the media, praising this woman, Kim Jong Un's sister, part of the dictatorship there, was completely mind-boggling to a lot of South Koreans," he said.