Token quasi-conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was in full-blown contrarian mode this morning as he offered his perspective on two reporters in Ferguson, Missouri, who were briefly arrested and then shortly thereafter released. The former Florida congressman ripped the reporters in question for failing to listen to the cop’s repeated orders to exit a McDonald’s as they attempted to cordon it off.
After playing video of one of the journalists – the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery – being told by the police that he needed to leave, the Morning Joe host offered: [MP3 audio here; video below]
I'll get in trouble here. I will just say, if I saw that video and my son was the one that the police arrested after that episode, I’d say, Joey, here is a clue. When the cops tell you for like the 30th time let's go, you know what that means, son? It means let's go. I'm sorry.
Scarborough continued his statement with a thinly-veiled attack on the two reporters, suggesting they were doing this more for publicity than anything else:
I've been in places where police officers said, all right you know what? This is cordoned off, you guys need to move along. You know what I do? I go, yes, sir, or yes, ma'am. I don't sit there and have a debate and film the police officer unless I want to get on TV and have people talk about me the next day.
The former Republican congressman’s comments were questioned by the Morning Joe panel. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times doubted whether there were riots outside of the McDonald’s. He argued that the police officers didn’t give the reporters sufficient time to pack up their things: “If you're a reporter setting up shop in a fast food restaurant you're going to have a laptop, a wi-fi card, your phone, your charger. It’s going to take you more than 45 seconds to get it together.”
Later in the segment, British journalist Katty Kay noted that “there [are] accusations of heavy-handedness by police in Ferguson amongst the local population.” Scarborough mentioned that there were accusations being thrown around on both sides: “But aren't there accusations on both sides of this? Because we hear one side of the story: cops bad.” He wrapped up by maintaining that “we don’t know what happened,” citing the two conflicting stories from the police and witnesses.
The Morning Joe host later received a heated response from Wesley Lowery regarding his comments. The Washington Post reporter invited Scarborough to Ferguson and suggested that he “get out of 30 Rock where he’s sitting sipping his Starbucks, smugly.”
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
August 14, 2014
6:05 a.m. Eastern
JOE SCARBOROUGH, host: Willie, I don't know. What do you think? Well, okay let me help you out here because I'm always the one that gets in trouble. I'll get in trouble here. I will just say, if I saw that video and my son was the one that the police arrested after that episode, I’d say, Joey, here is a clue. When the cops tell you for like the 30th time let's go, you know what that means, son? It means let's go. I'm sorry. That’s – I, you know what? We have got a lot of questions out there. We’ve got people angry in the streets because they won't release this cop's name. We don't even know what happened. We’ve got two sides telling something completely conflicting so there is a lot of unanswered questions here. But I do know this. When a police officer asks you to pick up – I can only, I can only – I've been in places where police officers said, all right you know what? This is cordoned off, you guys need to move along. You know what I do? I go, yes, sir, or yes, ma'am. I don't sit there and have a debate and film the police officer unless I want to get on TV and have people talk about me the next day. I am sure that I am just the worst person in the world for saying this. I can only judge how I would treat my son who is a reporter who, if he were in this position, I’d go you’re in jail, okay, well, you know what? Next time a police officer tells you that you've got to move along because you've got riots outside, well, you probably should move along. But maybe I'm in the minority. I don't know.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, New York Times: I didn't see any evidence Joe that there were riots outside that McDonald's.
SCARBOROUGH: I wasn't at that McDonald's.
CONFESSORE: I wasn't there either.
SCARBOROUGH: I don't know why the police officers were there. I know it's bad – I know it’s out there.
CONFESSORE: If you're a reporter setting up shop in a fast food restaurant you're going to have a laptop, a wi-fi card, your phone, your charger. It’s going to take you more than 45 seconds to get it together. He was trying to comply. And the question is, what was the rush to push them out of there? And then, when he slips basically and drops his briefcase, he gets arrested and pinned. It doesn't make any sense.
SCARBOROUGH: We don't know how long that is. I don't know why the police were moving them along.
CONFESSORE: Listen, I'm just concerned by what seems to be this common misperception that it's illegal to video a law enforcement officer or take pictures of them. It's not.
SCARBOROUGH: I don't think it is, but if they are coming in and saying that we're cordoning off this area and they say you have a certain amount of time to do it and, instead, you're putting up a video phone and you're asking some kid with a gun who is what, 25, 26, 27? He didn't make the orders.
SCARBOROUGH: So let me ask you guys something. Am I a sucker for when a police officer comes in and says hey, we need you to move along? Am I a sucker for actually listening and moving along or should I just sit there and question him? And by the way, what was he packing up? You know if he was packing up our entire control room, that's fine. He had a friggin' laptop. Come on! Oh, wait, I'm packing up, officer, let me ask you a question. I'm sorry.
KATTY KAY, BBC: Isn't there a broader question? If it happened to these two reporters, it is some indication of what is happening to other people in Ferguson who are not able to put –
SCARBOROUGH: Is it?
KAY: There is accusations of heavy-handedness by police in Ferguson amongst the local population and they’re not able to put their videos up on –
SCARBOROUGH: Well, there are accusations. But aren't there accusations on both sides of this? Because we hear one side of the story: cops bad. We had the police officer come out yesterday. They are calling basically signs holding, people calling for murder charges. And I understand, by the way, for everybody out there, going, hey Joe just blindly, you know, is on one side or the other. You know what? I caught hell because of what I said about Trayvon for months. In this situation, we don't know what happened. We just have absolutely no idea and you've got people, you know, the cops are trying to protect the identity of this cop and his family until they know exactly what happened. We have, Willie, two completely conflicting stories here. One, that the officer was assaulted. They went for the gun. They shoved him back in the car. And the other that this poor young man was just walking down the street and he was gunned down execution style.