Did Donald Trump just tell on himself?
In the wake of the president’s shocking personal attack on Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski, questions have arisen about whether Trump has undue influence over coverage in the National Enquirer — and used any potential sway to try and manipulate Brzezinski and co-host/fiancé Joe Scarborough to soften their coverage of his administration in exchange for his help getting a threatened National Enquirer story killed.
Trump acknowledged a seeming triangle between himself, the Enquirer and Scarborough in a tweet he fired off Friday morning, which also references a plot to have the alleged story killed.
“Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in a long time,” Trump wrote on Friday morning. “FAKE NEWS. [Scarborough] called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show.
The engaged couple opened up about the alleged situation in a scathing Washington Post op-ed and during their MSNBC show on Friday, claiming that the embattled president threatened to use the negative article in retaliation for the hosts’ often critical statements about Trump’s administration.
RELATED VIDEO: Natasha Stoynoff Breaks Silence, Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Attack
Scarborough, 54, said on the show Friday that he received numerous calls from White House officials begging him to call the president and offer an apology for the morning show’s coverage.
“The president is friends with the guy who runs the National Enquirer and they said, ‘If you call the president and you apologize for your coverage then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story,’ ” Scarborough recalled.
“I’m not gonna do it. The calls kept coming and kept coming and they were like, ‘Call! You need to call! Please call! Come on, Joe. Just pick up the phone and call [Trump].’ ”
Brzezinski, 50, alleged that representatives of the National Enquirer even went as far as to threaten her family.
“Let me explain what they were threatening,” Brzezinski said on-air Friday. “They were calling my children. They were calling close friends and they were pinning the story on my ex-husband [Jim Hoffer] … I knew immediately that it was a lie and that they had nothing.”
Trump has long had a relationship with the National Enquirer. In fact, he and David Pecker, chief executive of American Media, Inc., have been pals for decades, The New Yorker reports.
“The guy’s a personal friend of mine,” Pecker recently told the magazine.
Gus Wenner, the heir apparent of Wenner Media (from which American Media, Inc. bought US Weekly earlier this year), told The New Yorker that Pecker hasn’t been shy about his affection for Trump.
“He was painting Donald as extremely loyal to him, and he had no issue being loyal in return,” Wenner said, recalling a lunch meeting with Pecker. “He told me very bluntly that he had killed all sorts of stories for Trump.”
Meanwhile, Dylan Howard, Chief Content Officer & Vice President, American Media, Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, disputed Brzezinski and Scarborough’s claims in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“At the beginning of June we accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute,” the statement began.
“At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story. 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.”