Joe and Mika fight back

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"Vicious," "vindictive," "bullying," "pig" and "disgusting" were among the words used on "Morning Joe" Friday as a show and a co-host that has been the target of the president's ire fought back after his instantly notorious tweets.

They were among the words.

In what has curdled into a nasty soap opera, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough opened the formal counterattack by writing an op-ed for The Washington Post that opened, "We are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show, 'Morning Joe.'”

It cited an array of factual inaccuracies, including confronting his most unseemly declaration.

"Putting aside Mr. Trump’s never-ending obsession with women’s blood, Mika and her face were perfectly intact, as pictures from that night reveal. And though it is no one’s business, the president’s petulant personal attack against yet another woman’s looks compels us to report that Mika has never had a face-lift."

The duo alluded very indirectly at the end of their op-ed to their de facto about-face on Trump. They seemed to be snuggling up to him not that very long ago and, especially Scarborough, underscoring access to him. Now they are a daily rhetorical firing squad, rebuking him incessantly and calling him mentally unstable.

"Perhaps that is why we were neither shocked nor insulted by the president’s personal attack," they concluded. "The Donald Trump we knew before the campaign was a flawed character but one who still seemed capable of keeping his worst instincts in check."

The show's first hour was a rhetorical warm-up act for the engaged co-hosts, who start a vacation today and surfaced at the top of the second hour for comments. The show didn't take any particularly high road initially.

There was blowhard ad man Donny Deutsch wearing dark shades and making a bad joke about cosmetic surgery. He then made an irrelevant point about his not being an NBC employee, so "I'm going to go thug."

He called Trump "a pig...physically disgusting...obviously not well. A misogynist...he's not mentally OK...he's disgusting to look at." It wasn't C-SPAN.

Willie Geist, subbing as host, asked whether such a response "doesn't lower political discourse?" Deutsch didn't care.

Journalist-historian Jon Meacham offered a more contemplative precis devoid of the inflammatory. Trump "punches when he feels cornered...He punches and lashes out." He spoke of the public implications of such behavior, the violation of norms and questions about whether such a person was fit to deal with truly important matters, like nuclear arms.

He also noted the potentially depressing reality that none of this rhetorical fusillade would impact Trump's political base. "No. They will see this broadcast and this network as part of the problem."

The duo surfaced on their New York set. She said, "It's unbelievably alarming that this president is so easily played by a cable news host. What is this saying to our allies, saying to our enemies?"

By being played, she referred to jokes she made Thursday about a Washington Post story that Trump had put up phony Time magazine covers of himself at various Trump properties.

Scarborough said he'd received emails, calls and texts from around the world "expressing shock." And he asserted, once again, that his White House sources claim that they are anxious about Trump's mental state.

He said it "would be better if he (Trump) turned his 80-inch television set on 'Fox & Friends' and stayed there." He claimed that the Trump he knew "for 10 or 12 years" was a different person and "in on the joke."

The couple also asserted that the National Enquirer sought to "blackmail" them, as Scarborough put it, unless they made up with Trump. They did not, and what they deemed an innocuous story then ran. The supermarket tabloid and Trump are well known to have a cozy relationship.

So once again, we assume that Trump has gone a bridge too far, crossed a line of decency or political viability. Remember the other times? Arab-Americans allegedly cheering 9/11, John McCain not being a hero, nastiness toward Megyn Kelly or running his sexist mouth on "Access Hollywood."

And the press calls him to account, whether it's fact-checkers working overtime or an army of columnists, pundits or TV hosts venting. But Trump proceeds apace, appealing to his base and not heeding the traditional players.

He is, he seems to forget, the president. He could just not say a word. But he is so needy and vain, he fights back.

A caller on Wisconsin Public Radio asked me Thursday why the press doesn't focus on "important things" like the economy. He's right, even if Friday morning again seemed like a Trump-inspired, rush-hour gapers block one just can avoid. So you slow down and stare.

What Tim Cook really made

"Don’t be fooled by Tim Cook’s 2016 reported pay of $8.75 million, which ranked the Apple Inc. chief executive officer in the bottom third of all CEOs in the S&P 500. Cook, 56, actually took home $145 million, almost all of it from awards granted back in 2011." (Bloomberg)

The Germans crack down

They know the perils of hate speech. Now, "German lawmakers are set to pass legislation Friday to fine social-media companies up to $57 million for failing to quickly delete hate speech, libel and other illegal content, one of the most aggressive efforts in the West to regulate content posted online." (The Wall Street Journal)

Phil Jackson

The fabled pro basketball coach got canned as chief executive of the New York Knicks. It's open season on him right now, with nary a positive word being written about him.

It reminds me, however, of a 1992 Chicago Tribune piece that I helped broker: a meeting between Jackson, then coach of the Chicago Bulls, and John Updike. The late Tribune writer Paul Galloway did a knockout job, including catching the fact that Jackson knew one Updike book better than Updike, along with Jackson having some distinct views about what were then big changes at The New Yorker. (Chicago Tribune)

The search for fame turns deadly

"Pedro Ruiz III, a 22-year-old aspiring YouTube star who lived in Minnesota, died Monday after convincing his girlfriend to fire a gun toward a book at point-blank range in front of his chest." (Adweek)

Best read of the day

It may be James Lasdun's New Yorker opus, "My Dentist’s Murder Trial." The subhed? "Adultery, false identities, and a lethal sedation: A baroque courtroom drama unfolds in upstate New York."

Media impact on Trump?

Says Julian Zelizer of Princeton University: "The verdict is not out. While [Trump's] poll numbers are about the same, though the key is they have not gotten better — which might be an effect of the coverage — there are many indications that the midterms could be really bad for the GOP. Obviously we don't know but if that's the case I think the coverage is part of the story." (U.S. News & World Report)

Also take note of a Pew Research survey that asserts a rather dramatic turn in Americans' views as to whether the press serves a "watchdog" role.

InfoWars vs. Moon Juice and Goop

Here's one that media writers (present company shamefully included) have missed:

Quartz "looked at the ingredients used in products sold at the Infowars store, and compared them to products on the wellness shops Moon Juice and Goop. All make similar claims about the health benefits of these ingredients, but what gets called 'Super Male Vitality' by Infowars is branded as 'Sex Dust' by Moon Juice."

"Respect for women"

Pete Souza, a friend and former colleague who was White House photographer during the Obama years, is an image-driven government in exile. He uses social media to make simple, at times damning, commentaries on Trump.

On Thursday, it was simply a photo of Obama talking to four women in the Oval Office "Respect for women" was the title.

Busy day for tweets

Many didn't need anything close to 140 characters. Bill Kristol was rather less cerebral than usual. "You are a pig." (@BillKristol) Perhaps he inspired Deutsch's harangue this morning.

Hectic 24 hours at The Times

New York Times copy editors sent a note to newsroom leadership about a planned restructuring of their ranks, staffers protested the plans outside headquarters, reporters sent a letter of support for copy editors, and management underscored that reporters would also be impacted by an impending buyout. (Poynter)

News you can use

"Theoretical scientists gather for 35th annual symposium to try to determine how gas nozzle knows when tank is full."

How does it? Read about it in The Onion.

That's it for the week. I'll enjoy the holiday weekend in gorgeous Charlevoix in northern Michigan, where the lead story today in the Charlevoix Courier opens, "When it comes to ethics, moral values and the concept of right and wrong, there may be no place where it matters more than at the government level."

Alas, there's no citywide ethics policy, which suggests there's a guy in Washington who might feel right at home in a county (Charlevoix) that voted overwhelmingly for him last November. Cheers.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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