On today’s edition of Morning Joe, MSNBC gave a significant amount of coverage to the Obama administration’s federal mandate that religious colleges and hospitals cover contraception in their health insurance plans, regardless of whether doing so would violate their church’s teaching. To no surprise, co-host Mika Brzezinski was prepared for the discussion having talked it out with her handlers in the White House. [MP3 audio here]
Brzezinski admitted that she did not fully understand the issue and was curious to know more. So of course she went to the White House for clarity, rather than say columnist Peggy Noonan who wrote a column that the White House convinced her was “very misleading.”
Following the White House script, Brzezinski made the points that “there’s a one to two to three-year grace period for religious institutions to work it out,” and that “there are 28 states that have these policies in place.” Host Joe Scarborough dismissed the talking point as “number two that the White House is putting out,” to which Brzezinski casually responded, “Yeah, I know, I had a call with them yesterday.”
Yet these White House talking points being pushed by Brzezinski don’t turn out to be entirely true. As pointed out by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the federal mandate is much more strict than the mandates in place in 28 states. ObamaCare’s federal mandate closes all avenues that exist in the states for religious institutions to exempt themselves from coverage that directly violates their faith.
Scarborough attempted to explain to Brzezinski that she was misled, saying “Mika, you talked to the White House yesterday, who is spinning wildly right now. Because they’re in trouble.”
Perhaps Brzezinski is getting too used to spewing the White House’s talking points, as this is not the first time she has done it. On March 26, 2010, Brzezinski spent an entire minute reading White House talking points on ObamaCare straight from her BlackBerry.
Perhaps that’s why Joe playfully snarked as he closed out the segment, “You wanna check your BlackBerry and see if the White House is e-mailing you?”
The relevant transcript follows:
6:07 a.m. Eastern
February 7, 2012
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Well, it’s just the Peggy Noonan piece left some things out. I think we're going to have her on, right? Maybe not today? But we are trying to get her.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I hope so.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: As the governor of Connecticut pointed out yesterday, there are 28 states that have these policies in place.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Great.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Six states have the one that the Obama administration are putting in place, and the thing that was really left out is that in this new order, there's a one to two to three-year grace period for religious institutions to work it out, to try to find a model in which it can be done. Like Hawaii has one.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Ok, so lets start with this –
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Now I’m not– That’s just really important information that we’ve never.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let’s start with number two first that the White House is putting out.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, I know, I had a call with them yesterday. So when you ask Mark what the White House is saying, you can also ask me because I took copious notes on this trying to figure it out because I don’t agree with it.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well I know you do–
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But I have to say that the article, appears to be very misleading.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: They send you the memos, I understand now [unclear].
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: No, I actually was very curious about this, because I don’t understand it.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well very good.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: So I did some work and actually, you know, got information that we didn't have.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: The President is going to back down on this.
MARK HALPERIN: I agree.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, he’s going to back down. Because I think they had a real blind spot here and they got surprised. When, you know, we have a story about, I guess even the head of the Army ordering Army chaplains not to read a letter from the Archbishop, I think, this is all, it's all taken off very quickly. And I would be shocked if the President didn't back down.
MARK HALPERIN: But the same principle will apply if he changes. If he changes, however incremental it is. There will be pressure from the left to say you've caved. He's still going to have to explain it. He still needs to lead us to understand how is the country going to balance these difficult issues.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well the President –
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Well, yeah, ok. Well the President, the way it is laid out it leaves a good amount of time for that to happen. It’s not like, this is not a blanket overstep, which is what I thought it was when I read Peggy's column, to be quite honest.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mika, you talked to the White House yesterday, who is spinning wildly right now. Because they’re in trouble. I would be–
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Of course I did. Ok, you know what, I don’t agree with the White House on this, okay? But I did call to listen to them, because thats what we do. Ok?
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I know that’s what we do. Did you call Peggy as well?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: You know what? I thought she was on today? Is she on today? Or is she on tomorrow?
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Alex, is she on?
ALEX [Off-set assistant]: She can do Friday. We’re working on it.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: We’re working on it.
MARK HALPERIN: She’s a hard booking.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: She is a hard booking.