When Joe Scarborough alleged Friday that he'd been manipulated by officials in the Trump administration who held a damning National Enquirer story over his head, one could only be sure of one thing: The tabloid and Trump are a truly coosome twosome.
Scarborough's allegation came as he and "Morning Joe" co-host and fiance Mika Brzezinski, who were both once distinct Trump sympathizers, fought back after Trump's vulgar attack on Brzezinski.
The Enquirer-related claim is that the paper said it would not do a piece on the couple if they'd make peace with Trump after they'd so clearly turned on him. Their attacks are now unceasing and include her frequent allegation that he is mentally unbalanced. On Friday, the couple said that her ex-husband and children had been contacted by the tabloid as part of heavy-handed research.
Trump, no surprise, was watching Friday. Yes, the President of the United States was watching "Morning Joe," surely due to publicity that the co-hosts would delay their vacation to respond to him. It would seem an MSNBC marketer's or ad salesman's delight.
Trump proceeded to tweet the claim that Scarborough had called him to get the Enquirer story squelched. Scarborough responded that the president was lying. The back-and-forth gained attention.
The Enquirer has responded:
"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. 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.”
But there is no surprise that one might consider Trump and the tabloid almost interchangeably.
Trump and the paper have long been allies. The paper urged him to run in the 2012 presidential race and, after theatrically toying with the notion, he didn't. When he ran last year, it made its first-ever presidential endorsement on his behalf.
When the paper celebrated its 90th anniversary last fall, the locale was a Trump hotel in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan. And, no surprise, its support of him as been unstinting.
"TABLOID'S SHOCKING LOVE AFFAIR WITH TRUMP REVEALED!" declared a tongue-in-cheek headline on a Sept. 29 Bloomberg story. It underscored the connection between the developer-turned-politicians and readers who have "long accepted the Enquirer's blurring of truth and fiction."
Trump has actually written for them, especially after its 2011 story that claimed "millions implore Donald Trump to reconsider new presidential run." He's very friendly with the Enquirer's executive, David Pecker.
Editor Dylan Howard has maintained that the sympathetic coverage is not a function of the Pecker-Trump chumminess but the nexus of what his readers and Trump believe.
To that extent, there is a commonality when it comes to often conspiracy-driven views of the world and an anti-elite posture that sees the media and Hollywood among sources of suspicion. So when he goes after The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC, it fits neatly with the Enquirer world view and its readers' economic-driven sense of being shafted by American society.
The paper asserts that all its reporting is not only valid but more so than that of the mainstream press. And it prides itself on scoops such as John Edwards' extramarital affair (and child) with a filmmaker and the then-famous photo of Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart sitting on a dock with Donna Rice.
It also is more than happy to pay for scoops.
But the Trump connection aside, the paper has its own problem. Its circulation has dipped below 350,000. At the height of its success, in the 1970s, it was well over 5 million. Its web audience is around 850,000 unique visitors a month.
That would pale by comparison to the audiences of The Times, Post, CNN and MSNBC.
As for MSNBC, it included at least one notable viewer Friday morning from the White House. That's the sort of demographic that can boost ad rates.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Joe Scarborough alleged the National Enquirer tried to blackmail him. In fact, he said that he'd been manipulated by officials in the Trump administration who held a damning National Enquirer story over his head.