“Morning Jo(k)e”: Does Scarborough / Brzezinski Romance Reveal Basis for Show’s Political Imbalance?

Between my husband and three young daughters, nothing spurs my household’s collective moans louder than my weekday “Morning Joe” habit.

Six a.m. Eastern, and amid the early-hour chaos, if I’m in possession of the television remote, this MSNBC cable-ratings juggernaut is on in my den . . . and has been for the better part of the past decade.

My husband Charles and I are both conservatives, yet I’m the one who tends to gravitate to the program.

For whatever reason, the show’s overwhelming political bent, which nowadays nearly always runs counter to Charles’ and my view of the world, doesn’t put me in a bad mood to start my day. Hearing alternate points of view represents – for me – a great exercise in political-discourse participation, with the acknowledgment that there has been little two-way “discourse” for me in my role as a mere viewer all these years.

But today, I think I’ll finally do some talking of my own.

It was interesting to learn this month of confirmation that Joe Scarborough, the program’s host and the former Congressman (R-Fla.), and his co-host for the past 10 years, Mika Brzezinski, a former news anchor for CBS, announced their engagement.

I use the word “confirmation,” as there had been media speculation (dubious online reports) of an off-camera romantic relationship for some time.

When it comes to their personal lives, I wish Mr. Scarborough and Ms. Brzezinski peace and happiness in their personal path together, the details of which are admittedly no one’s business.

The matter that’s entirely valid for public debate, however, is the integrity and truth-in-advertising of “Morning Joe” as a public affairs opinion-editorial product offering anything even hinting at political balance, by virtue of Scarborough’s background.

In that regard, the engagement announcement was quite revealing, although the jig was up some years prior.

You see, I am among an unknown number of long-time conservative viewers who have felt that any consistent conservative viewpoint on the program – the flag for which was ostensibly to be carried by Mr. Scarborough, given his prior credentials – has been virtually abandoned in favor of the ideology for which MSNBC is now so universally known and to which the future Mrs. Scarborough has arguably secured the role of patron saint.

In the early days of the program, it seemed that Mr. Scarborough could be relied upon to voice quite articulately and even passionately a fairly strong and consistent conservative position.  His participation in this manner on the program that bears his name was what drew me to it years ago.

I found in recent years, however, and particularly in this last presidential election cycle and its aftermath, that what prompted my continued viewership of “Morning Joe” was both the spectacle and (now confirmed) speculation that something . . . but something . . . was skewing Mr. Scarborough’s willingness or ability (or both) to serve as this voice.

Looking at the past election cycle, I could often understand – in all fairness – many of Mr. Scarborough’s admonitions against the Republican Party and some Republican presidential candidates, given many of the remarks and revelations on the campaign trail. I’ve never expected him to tow the line blindly to any single agenda.

However, I started observing on a regular basis over these recent years that there were just too many obvious missed opportunities for Mr. Scarborough to advocate for at least the rudimentary conservative platforms on topics like free enterprise, freedom of speech, strength of national defense, enforcement of laws, local control of many domestic issues, etc., . . . opportunities that the Scarborough of a decade ago would likely have never let pass by, particularly in the face of Ms. Brzezinski’s signature yet wholly reiterative brand of liberal analysis – replete with audible sighs, visible eye-rolls and faux deer-in-the-headlights pauses to underscore whatever it is she’s trying to underscore in each and every segment.

And it kept striking me time and again in the past few years in particular. . . What gives with Joe? 

Where’s the push-back?  Where’s the non-withering conservative voice?  What’s more, as Mr. Scarborough is the self-professed overseer of his program and of the choice of guests relative to diversity of thought and political views, what’s with this overwhelmingly ideological slant of both daily panelists and periodic guests that runs so counter to his conservative profile, as it were?

It now seems quite clear what gives, as the crude saying goes about avoiding certain activities in the same place where one eats and Mr. Scarborough’s apparently evolved priorities.  This love match is not of the James Carville / Mary Matalin variety, where both sides retain not only their stalwart views but also their ability to articulate them unabashedly, mano-a-mano, without undue deference to the fact that they are going home together each night.

I don’t want to emasculate the man, but from my political viewpoint, we’ve witnessed a bait-and-switch with no other known culprit. What “Morning Joe” was originally marketed to be – the lone-wolf conservative-headlined show on an otherwise all-liberal network meant to advance an authentic two-sided dialogue on political matters of the day . . . is now a Morning Joke.

Only I’m not laughing, because it’s such a disappointment and missed opportunity that this program has set aside political rigor in favor of a one-political-viewpoint-fits-all mentality that typifies MSNBC and, truthfully, too many of the political-analysis offerings in the larger marketplace.

It will be interesting to see if the dynamic of the program shifts further, as if it has anywhere more leftward to go.

For now, host and co-host are playing it fairly coy and not allowing their recently announced personal plans to be interjected into much, if any, of the daily banter. But for those of us who are long-time viewers, the writing was on the wall quite some time ago.

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Mary Beth West
Mary Beth West, APR, has more than 20 years’ experience in strategic communications. Mary Beth’s award-winning work has included creation and implementation of national media relations campaigns, employee communications programs, consumer and business-to-business marketing initiatives and crisis preparedness systems.

2 thoughts on ““Morning Jo(k)e”: Does Scarborough / Brzezinski Romance Reveal Basis for Show’s Political Imbalance?

  1. Tom Eppes / Reply May 25, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Mary Beth, I, too, have been a long-time viewer, balanced by Brett B. on Fox in the evening. I agree 100 percent with your evaluation and now last maybe 5-10 minutes before I have to cut it off.

    • Mary Beth West / Reply May 30, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      Hi Tom — Thanks for weighing in on the topic. I’m about to start clocking in at that time limit myself (much to my family’s glee). I wish more programs could strike an ideologically diverse balance. But I suppose ratings are ratings and business is business.

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