MSNBC's "Morning Joe" co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski argued Thursday that they had not been accommodating to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign -- an attempt at revisionist history contradicted by hours of footage from their own show.
Scarborough and Brzezinksi were defending themselves against Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and a conservative who opposes Trump, who said: "This show was really tough on Trump in late 2015 and early 2016 -- are you going to pretend that?"
"We were," Scarborough replied. "We were."
"If that's your way of rewriting history, that's fine with you guys," Kristol said. "A lot of people accommodated Trump at different times, but I'm not going to get into it."
"Well no, no, no, you just did," Scarborough shot back. "You lied. Please don't come on my air and lie.... I can't even believe you're doing this. I don't know why you're so bitter. You're actually crying."
Scarborough provided several pieces of evidence to back up the claim that they had been tough on Trump, including that, "I said from the beginning I would never vote for him, I said I was voting for Jeb Bush then I said I was voting for John Kasich" and that in early December 2015 he and Brzezinski had compared Trump's proposed ban on Muslims to Germany in 1933.
Those limited examples are a fig leaf for the months of positive coverage and support that Scarborough and Brzezinski gave to Trump in the period of time Kristol was referring to: late 2015 and early 2016.
As CNNMoney and others have documented, Scarborough and Brzezinski -- who visited privately with Trump on multiple occasions during the primaries -- were overwhelmingly supportive of the Republican candidate during that time, consistently praising his unconventional campaign and defending him from his critics.
Scarborough, especially, spoke about Trump in glowing terms, praising him as "a masterful politician." The Washington Post wrote that Trump had received "a tremendous degree of warmth from the show," and that his appearances on the show, in person and over the phone, often feel like "a cozy social club."
In February, several NBC News and MSNBC journalists, reporters and staffers told CNNMoney there was widespread discomfort at the network over Scarborough's friendship with Trump and his increasingly favorable coverage of the candidate.
"People don't like that Joe is promoting Trump," one MSNBC insider said at the time. Others described Scarborough's admiration for Trump as "over the top" and "unseemly."
Scarborough also openly admitted to being friends with the candidate and even offering him debate advice: "I've actually called him up and said, 'Donald, listen, you need to speak in complete sentences at debates," Scarborough told an audience at the 92nd Street Y in November 2015. "After the second debate ... I walked into his office, I said, 'Donald, do you know how to read? ... I said, 'You should read before a debate! ... Read a paragraph on Syria, read a paragraph on education reform!'"
In September, Trump told GQ that Scarborough had called him after one of the primary debates to congratulate him: "He said, 'Congratulations, you have just become president! You killed everybody,'" Trump told GQ.
It wasn't until May of this year that Scarborough started growing more critical of Trump on his show, and the co-hosts and Trump had a falling out. From May through now, "Morning Joe" has been much more critical of Trump's candidacy.
But even as recently as last month, Scarborough and Brzezinski made an effort to repair the relationship, visiting the Republican presidential nominee at Trump Tower to discuss the possibility of conducting an interview for "Morning Joe."
Thursday afternoon, Scarborough went on Twitter to address the spat with Kristol and the people who'd noticed it. "Many are reaching out about the @BillKristol segment. Here's the deal. Bill and i disagree sometimes but we are always friends," Scarborough wrote. "Here's another thing about @BillKristol and me. We are on the same team. We are Americans who love our country even when we disagree."