Speaking Wednesday evening at the National Archives Building in central Washington, D.C., at an event organized by the Institute of Politics, Brzezinski and Scarborough told Harvard students about their collective experiences working in news media and politics.
The two have hosted “Morning Joe,” MSNBC’s weekday morning news and talk show, together with co-host Willie Geist for the past ten years.
The event was moderated by recently appointed Harvard Corporation member David M. Rubenstein. Rubenstein endowed a permanent namesake exhibit at the National Archives, which houses historic documents that he owns, such as the Magna Carta and a stone copy of the Declaration of Independence. A billionaire with his own television show, Rubenstein maintains an unusually public profile for the newest member of a historically secretive governing body.
Brzezinski told the audience that in her decades of experience in the television industry, “Morning Joe” was unique—and successful.
“We did what we wanted, and we broke all the rules of television immediately,” Brzezinski said. “I have literally done every television show known to man. Here, we were breaking the mold, and I knew that this was going to be an explosion.”
Brzezinski and Scarborough have joined the IOP as Summer and Fall term visiting fellows. They will travel periodically to Cambridge for events and will collaborate on academic work with Harvard faculty.
“We have been blessed to do so many things that there aren’t a lot of things that excite us, but this is a great honor for us,” Scarborough said of the fellowship.
The couple also discussed their relationship with President Donald Trump. The pair communicated extensively with Trump during his campaign and he was often a guest caller on their show.
Two weeks ago, Trump, disgruntled with the couple’s criticism of him on their show, tweeted a series of derogatory statements about Brzezinski and Scarborough, drawing widespread criticism from lawmakers and political commentators alike.
The two said that while they previously had a personal relationship with the president—Scarborough offered the then-candidate advice and the pair subsequently visited Trump at the White House—that rapport had disappeared in recent months.
“We don’t talk. Things have kind of devolved,” Brzezinski said, to laughs from the audience.
Scarborough said that amid scandals racking the Trump presidency, it is important for news media and the general public to be cognizant of the larger, national picture. “In the age of Trump, I think the greatest challenge is keeping everything in context,” he added.
Asked by one audience member about his recent deflection from the Republican Party, which drew headlines Wednesday, Scarborough said it was “a long time coming.”.
Chief among his grievances with the party was its members’ failure to denounce what he viewed as racist comments by President Trump.
“What bothered me the most was that the Republican Party, and its leaders, and so many others had so many reasons why they didn’t support Donald Trump, but I never heard it was because he was a racist,” Scarborough said.
He added that the GOP’s recent health care bill was “the last straw,” describing it as “heartless” and “shameful.”
Brzezinski and Scarborough, who recently announced their engagement, also revealed they are considering holding their wedding in Nantucket. “If Bill Delahunt promises to go,” Scarborough joked.
The pair will hold more events in Cambridge as their fellowships at the IOP get underway this fall.
—Staff writer Graham Bishai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamBishai.
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