"Morning Joe" co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Friday accused the White House of blackmailing them with an embarrassing story, but MSNBC is not planning to go public with evidence supporting the charge.
The MSNBC hosts said on air that "top" White House officials called them saying the National Enquirer would publish a negative story against them unless they apologized to President Donald Trump for their show's coverage of him. Scarborough and Brzezinski did not apologize and let the story run.
Trump refuted their claims, tweeting that Scarborough asked him to stop the story from getting published and he refused.
Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
Scarborough called the president's statement a "lie" and said he had phone records to prove his story.
Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months. https://t.co/TZWiElo6Gs
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) June 30, 2017
After Scarborough tweeted that he had proof of the blackmail story, MSNBC said it has no plans to release any phone records of conversations between the "Morning Joe" hosts and White House officials, according to Mediaite and Politico.
New York magazine reported Friday that Scarborough had discussed the pending National Enquirer story with Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser and Trump's son-in-law, in mid-April. Kushner told Scarborough that he could stop the story from running by personally apologizing to Trump, which Scarborough refused to do, according to the report.
The Enquirer published the article in early June, headlined "Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!"
The Daily Beast quoted an anonymous White House official who said the media was exaggerating the story.
"This is getting blown up on Twitter and elsewhere as some kind of blackmail operation," the official said. "The truth is far more mundane. In this case, Joe was talking to Jared about his [bad] relationship with the president and an Enquirer hit piece he was uneasy about."
"These calls persisted for quite some time," she said Friday on "Morning Joe." "They were threatening. They were calling my children."
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that he was "not aware" of any blackmail attempts, as did National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard.
"We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions," Howard said in a statement.
Scarborough and Brzezinski discussed their blackmail story in detail after briefly referencing it Friday in a Washington Post op-ed. Their column was a response to Trump's tweets the prior day personally attacking the MSNBC hosts, including Brzezinski's appearance.
UPDATE 6/30/2017 8:05 P.M.: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Brzezinski claimed the White House, not the Enquire, had made the pressuring calls.