A top White House aide never suggested a quid pro quo during a call with Joe Scarborough regarding an upcoming National Enquirer Story, a source told Fox News – despite Scarborough’s claim Friday morning that a Trump adviser recently tried to blackmail him into giving positive coverage of the president.
Scarborough made the allegation during Friday’s “Morning Joe,” as he and Mika Brzezinski provided a fierce response to a pair of tweets President Trump directed at the MSNBC hosts a day earlier.
But a source familiar with the matter said Scarborough called senior adviser Jared Kushner, with whom Scarborough has a friendly relationship, to ask about a National Enquirer article slated to run in early June regarding the relationship between Scarborough and Brzezinski, who have since announced their engagement.
Scarborough asked Kushner if there was anything that could be done about the article, the source said, given Trump’s friendship with David Pecker, the chief executive of The Enquirer’s parent company, American Media. Kushner allegedly told Scarborough that the former Republican congressman needed to talk to the president himself about the issue, to which Scarborough replied that Trump was angry at him. The source said Kushner answered: “Well, then maybe you should apologize.”
Though Scarborough and Brzezinski were initially criticized for being too cozy with Trump during the Republican presidential primaries, the relationship eventually soured and the pair became frequent and ferocious critics of the president – even going so far as to question his mental health.
Scarborough portrayed the conversation far differently on “Morning Joe,” saying a top presidential aide threatened him with a negative story unless he stopped being so negative about Trump, implying Trump’s team was blackmailing him. He never identified the aide to which he spoke.
But the source who spoke to Fox News said there was nothing in the conversation between Kushner and Scarborough to suggest a quid pro quo or blackmail – merely presenting the idea that if Scarborough wanted to get back on speaking terms with the president, perhaps an apology was in order.
After “Morning Joe” concluded, Trump tweeted to deny Scarborough’s charge.
“Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show,” Trump wrote.
The Enquirer did end up running an article on Scarborough and Brzezinski’s “sleazy cheating scandal,” claiming their relationship began while both were married. Brzezinski divorced her husband of 23 years this year and Scarborough divorced his second wife in 2013.
In a statement from Dylan Howard, the vice president of America Media, The Enquirer defended its reporting and denied it took part in any form of blackmail.
“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," Howard wrote on the Enquirer website. "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."
Fox News’ John Roberts contributed to this report.