Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough are the co-hosts of Morning Joe on MSNBC.
Mika Brzezinski was the principal reporter for CBS at “Ground Zero” during the 9/11 attacks. She joined MSNBC in 2007. She has written three books, launched a campaign against trivial journalism, and pioneered “Know Your Value” events to empower women.
Joe Scarborough started his career as a lawyer and served as a Republican representative for Florida’s first congressional district from 1995 to 2001. After resigning, he worked in environmental law and launched an MSNBC talk show in 2003 before starting with Morning Joe four years later.
They announced their engagement earlier this year.
Harvard Political Review: Your show is often critiqued for having a liberal bias. What do you do to limit bias on the show and allow for multiple perspectives?
Mika Brzezinski: It’s hard to really limit bias, but what you can do to control it is [maintain] a sense of objectivity and openness towards different points of view. The show begins with Joe and me. He is a Republican turned independent, and I’m a Democrat, and everybody knows that. It’s not unusual to have people who disagree, but we’re very transparent about it in every conversation that we have. There are biases that you don’t even know sometimes that you’re exuding, so that’s where the conversation and the debate help.
Joe Scarborough: The most critical thing is that, for us, we try to always make sure that there is not an echo chamber, that we don’t have five people talking to each other saying the same things. Sometimes, that means having more Republicans on the set than Democrats, and sometimes it’s the opposite. Like Mika said, the key is the transparency. None of us are sitting there trying to play the voice of God and pretending that we’re objective because nobody is.
HPR: What are the challenges of covering President Trump since his flurry of Twitter comments against you?
MB: No different. We’re not surprised. We know him, and [his tweets] don’t bother us. I will say that I’ve seen him bully on Twitter before, and it’s been atrocious, and it’s been disturbing, and when it sort of pricked me, I realized that, oh my God, this guy is unhinged. He’s so easily played, and he’s now tweeting at me about my facelift surgery, bleeding from a facelift, or whatever he said. I just [think] it is disturbing that our President is doing this.
JS: One thing we did consciously do that we don’t usually do is that we sat and talked about how we were going to be on the show the following week, and just said we had to guard against —
MB: Personal animus.
JS: — appearing to be personally angry and showing the personal animus. Even though we didn’t take it personally because we know him, we understood that everybody inside and outside the White House would be watching this more carefully. We did need to be a bit more careful and guard our words a bit more than usual. We don’t like guarding our words.
HPR: Joe, how do you think the Republican Party has changed since you signed the Contract for America in 1994, and what pushed you to leave the party?
JS: It’s changed in all the wrong ways. My role models were Eisenhower, Reagan, and Jeb Bush as governor: people who were moderate temperamentally but conservative fiscally. When I left Congress in 2001, we had a balanced budget. In fact, we had a surplus. Eight years later after Republicans controlled Washington, we had a trillion-dollar deficit, the national debt had doubled, and there was a lot of reckless spending. I held on because I didn’t mind fighting the good fight when it had to do with fiscal responsibility because I thought, and I still believe, that time is on my side and that at some point that is going to become such a looming problem that Washington is going to have to be responsible.
The problem came with the racist attacks that Donald Trump launched and that so many Republicans remained silent after he proposed the Muslim ban. After he attacked a Mexican judge who was from Indiana, who was a Hoosier, and the insensitivity shown towards Mexicans at the beginning of the campaign, towards Gold-Star moms simply because they were Muslims, and shown towards just about everybody who wasn’t white concerned me. Of course, Charlottesville was extraordinarily disturbing as were the President’s comments. At the end of the day, I couldn’t stay in a party that continued to defend Donald Trump when he continued to say things that were either racially insensitive or downright racist.
HPR: Mika, you’ve launched a campaign against what you call “trivial journalism.” In the age of “alternative facts,” what reforms do you think are necessary in mainstream media?
MB: Facebook needs to understand that it’s a news organization or a media organization. I think that there are many constructs out there—search engines, whatever you want to call them—and they’ve all become a part of this strange strainer that is the way people get news.
They don’t get news the way people did when we were growing up. It was from three networks and a couple of newspapers and that was it. Now, it’s just everywhere, and you don’t even know what’s news and what’s not. People search things and think that’s news. They have no concept of how to collate this stuff.
We’re in for a rough ride over the next two decades, trying to get to the other side of this where there is some parameter in place or regulation. I’m not really sure what it’s going to look like, but this is going to come to a head, and it’s going to get worse, where either it’ll lead to violence or something that is caused by misinformation. We’re going to have to install some parameters in what is the Wild West of Internet news, information sites, and search engines.
HPR: To end on a lighter note, congratulations to you both on your engagement.
MB: Oh, thank you. That’s nice.
HPR: At your last Institute of Politics event over the summer, you mentioned some details about the wedding. Is there anything new that you’d be willing to share?
MB: Since my dad passed away, everything has slowed down a bit. I’ve gotten my girls back into school. But we hope to get married in the next year or so. I have no idea how, or when, but we’ll figure it out.
JS: But no details.
MB: We got nothing.
Image Credit: Flickr/Morning Joe
This interview has been edited and condensed.