Morning Joe has a love-hate, but mostly love, relationship with presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Trump has appeared countless times on the MSNBC talk show, which is a favorite with political and cultural elites on the eastern seaboard.
The demagogic businessman and former host of Celebrity Apprentice is friends with Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, as evidenced by chummy voicemails and recordings that surfaced in the last month.
Scarborough and Brzezinski have battled accusations that they are in Trump’s corner, pointing to segments where they criticized the candidate for his most bigoted and vulgar remarks.
"You know Mika, we’ve actually been hammered by people saying ‘oh, you’re supporting Donald.’ No, we’re not supporting Donald Trump and we haven’t supported Donald Trump," Scarborough said last month.
Last week, Scarborough said that Trump’s waffling response to his endorsement by David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, was "disqualifying."
However, the Morning Joe crew is conspicuously late to the party in denouncing Trump, who is leading the Republican presidential field. Their criticism of the candidate can be weighed against their softball interviews with him, the many laudatory comments they have made about him, and the general air of giddiness that has characterized their coverage of him.
The show’s personalities have likened Trump to Ronald Reagan, "a laser," "a constant niagara of surprises," and "an unstoppable machine," superlatives that would not seem out of place if spoken by the egotistical candidate himself. According to columnist Mike Barnicle, Trump is an "all-consuming" force and the fastest learner he has ever seen in American politics.
Morning Joe’s bullishness on Trump allowed it to predict the candidate’s rise while other pundits dismissed his chances, but it has also led to inaccurate predictions: Scarborough said that Trump would win Iowa (he finished a distant second to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas) and Morning Joe stalwart and prominent debate report card-maker Mark Halperin predicted that Trump would sweep all 11 states on Super Tuesday (he won seven).
While Scarborough and Brzezinski have denied that they are trumpeting Trump, the candidate succinctly characterized their coverage of him in an audio recording obtained by radio host Harry Shearer.
"I watched your show this morning," Trump told Scarborough and Brzezinski off camera. "You have me as almost a legendary figure."