On Thursday, Donald Trump tweeted a series of strange and misogynistic insults about Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski, calling her “crazy” and “low I.Q.” before claiming that she had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a visit to Mar-a-Lago around New Year’s Eve.
This is not surprising behavior from the president, a committed misogynist.
But some people actually were caught off guard by the president’s most recent expression of his contempt for women and general unfitness for the office he currently holds. Perhaps most notable among them: Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.
“The guy that’s in the White House now is not the guy we knew two years ago,” Scarborough said Friday. While he said this, Brzezinkski nodded in somber agreement. “Not even close,” she added.
Now what was Donald Trump doing on this very day two years ago?
This tweet was in part a response to the news that NBC would not air the Trump-owned Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants because of statements he made about Mexican immigrants two weeks prior.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said while announcing his presidential candidacy. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Two days after Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, he appeared on Morning Joe and had a really great time.
“It’s official!,” Brzezinski exclaimed. “Why did you decide to do it this year when you passed all those other years?” Scarborough asked, voice full of wonder.
During the segment, the hosts asked him what he would do to simplify the tax code and quizzed him on his favorite president. They chuckled when he said Bill Clinton. Brzezinski joked about tugging on his hair.
This would become a pattern. Throughout his campaign, while he called for a total ban on Muslim immigration and travel and cheered on the people who violently assaulted protesters at his rallies, Trump continued to find a warm audience with Brzezinski and Scarborough.
A little more than a month after Trump offered (then rescinded the offer) to pay the legal fees for a man who had assaulted someone at one of his rallies, Scarborough wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post marveling at his “stunning rise.”
During a conversation caught on hot mic in early 2016, the three discuss Trump’s political strategy and his odds in the primary. Trump tells them his appearances on the show will mean a nice raise for the pair and commends them on their flattering coverage. “You had me almost as a legendary figure,” Trump tells them. They talk about questions for the upcoming segment. “Nothing too hard, Mika,” Trump says at one point. “OK!” Brzezinski chirps back.
In each of these segments, the racism and violence of Trump’s campaign functioned as spectacle. It was fuel for a narrative about a rule-breaking upstart, the kind of man who wasn’t scared to ruffle a few feathers.
In the Friday segment, Scarborough characterized the Trump of the last 10 to 12 years—a period during which he built his political career on a racist lie about President Obama, called women he disliked “fat pigs,” and bragged to the people around him that he could grab women “by the pussy” and get away with it because of his celebrity—as a guy who used to be “in on the joke.”
“He’d always wink, kind of like, they love that,” he said.
Nothing about Trump—who is as erratic, self-aggrandizing, and bigoted as ever—has changed. The difference now is that Scarborough and Brzezinski are no longer in on the joke.