MSNBC's Morning Joe TV host Joe Scarborough said Friday that three top White House staffers told him President Trump could arrange to "spike" a negative story about him in the National Enquirer if Scarborough would call the president and apologize for his negative coverage of Trump.
He described the White House officials as "three people at the very top of the administration."
"They said if you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story," Scarborough said.
Scarborough said his response was, "Like ‘are you kidding me. I don't know what they have, run a story, I'm not going to do it,’ Scarborough said.
“The calls kept coming and they were like ‘you need to call, please call',” he added.
Trump has often spoken of his long-standing personal relationship with David Pecker, the owner of the National Enquirer. During the 2016 campaign, Trump several times referred to negative stories in the tabloid aimed at his rivals, such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.
After Scarborough's appearance Friday morning, Trump tweeted: "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"
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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
Scarborough quickly responded with his own tweet to deny that he had phoned Trump. "Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoke with you in many months."
Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months. https://t.co/TZWiElo6Gs— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) June 30, 2017
Scarborough and his co-host and fiance Mika Brzezinski postponed a vacation and appeared on "Morning Joe" on Friday to respond to a series of very personal tweets from Trump on Thursday.
The cable TV host said the episode represented “really strange obsessions with this show and in particular really disturbing obsession with Mika.”
In the past, Trump has shown considerable interest in the Scarborough-Brzezinski relationship, tweeting in August, during the campaign: "Some day, when things calm down, I'll tell the real story of @JoeNBC and his very insecure long-time girlfriend, @morningmika. Two clowns!"
The pair said the White House appeals came after her daughters and ex-husband began getting calls earlier this year, purportedly from National Enquirer reporters, indicating a negative story was in the works.
Last summer, Brzezinski divorced James Hoffer, an investigative reporter based in New York, after 23 years of marriage.
Scarborough, who divorced his second wife, Susan Warren, in 2013 after 12 years of marriage, said that at one point a tabloid reporter was staking out Brzezinski's house and questioned him as he was leaving.
“They were calling my children, they were calling close friends and they were pinning this story on my ex-husband, who I knew would never do that, so I knew immediately that it was a lie and that they had nothing,” Brzezinski said. “And these calls persisted for quite some time and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House where they said, ‘Oh, this could go away.’”
On June 2, the Enquirer ran a story on the pair with the headline, "Joe & Mika: TV couple's Sleazy Cheating Scandal." A subtitle on the story, which was bylined by "National Enquirer staff, reads: "Morning' lovebirds vow to make it legal as THE ENQUIRER asks questions!"
The article alleged that Scarborough had been paying "hush money" to his ex-wife and had forced her to sign a gag order to prevent her from discussing his relationship with Brzezinski.
The National Enquirerissued a statement on Friday saying that it had "accurately reported" a story in early June recounting the relationship between Scarborough and Brzezinski "the truth of which is not in dispute."
"At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story," said Dylan Howard, chief content officer and vice president of American Media, Inc., which owns the tabloid. "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."
Although Scarborough declined to name the officials, New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reported Friday that one of them was Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law. Sherman, quoting three unnamed sources familiar with the private conversation, said Scarborough and Kushner had exchanged texts about the impending Enquirer article and that Kushner said that Scarborough would need to personally apologize to Trump for his negative reports in exchange for Pecker to stop the story. Scarborough refused. The magazine said a Kushner spokesperson declined to comment.
In a different version of the exchange, The Daily Beast reports that Kushner and Scarborough spoke "many weeks ago" about the upcoming article and that the TV host had "calmly sought" advice from Kushner, who "recommended he speak with the president." The official said the conversations did not involved any hostile threat or attempt at blackmail.
Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, has known Trump for more than a decade, although the relationship has turned testy in recent months.
He said that during the campaign Trump would call him to brag about his friendship with Pecker and urge Joe to see the latest negative story in the tabloid about Ben Carson or other Trump campaign rivals.
"All these story that were planted in the National Enquirer for people that Donald Trump wanted to attack, and then he would talk about it on the campaign trail," Scarborough said.