On today’s “Morning Joe,” co-host Mike Brzezinski defended Richard Blumenthal, Democratic candidate for Senate in Connecticut, who reportedly misrepresented his military record habitually over the course of his political career.
Even though The New York Times exposed Blumenthal yesterday in an article on its front page, presenting evidence that the Connecticut Attorney General made no effort to correct numerous news stories over several years that described him as a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, Brzezinski told co-host Joe Scarborough to “leave him alone.”
Brzezinski grimaced, squirmed, and shook her head in disapproval while Scarborough and MSNBC’s Willie Geist ridiculed Blumenthal for attempting to characterize the discrepancies as “a few misplaced words” at a press conference yesterday.
“It was a few misplaced words,” insisted Brzezinski, parroting Blumenthal’s defense.
Admitting to liking Blumenthal both personally and politically, Brzezinski could not separate her personal feelings from her professional obligations as a journalist.
“I do want to hear his side of this,” implored Brzezinski. “I know him well; he’s a good guy.”
Scarborough mocked Blumenthal over multiple segments, reminiscing about when he walked on the moon, when Geist rode the Secretariat to the Triple Crown, and his victory at the Masters in 1989: “Would you like to see my green jacket?”asked Scarborough. Brzezinski did not appreciate the joke, ordering Scarborough to “just be quiet” and “shut your pie hole.”
Eventually Brzezinski caved to the mockery and admitted Blumenthal should have been more straightforward yesterday: “I think it would have gone a long way if he had just completely said ‘Listen, I can’t defend it. It was wrong what I did...the bottom line is what I did was wrong.’”
The transcript of the relevant portions of the program can be found below:
WILLIE GEIST: Hartford Courant: Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal holding a news conference yesterday to say he simply misspoke about his military service in what he described as a quote “few misplaced words.” Not sure that’s gonna fly, Joe.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, just a few! When we returned from Vietnam.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Well we’re going to play part of that news conference.
SCARBOROUGH: You know Willie...
BRZEZINSKI: I want to hear what he has to say.
SCARBOROUGH: No, it was like when Willie and I, when we returned from our Navy Seals work in the mountains of Afghanistan.
BRZEZINSKI: Do you want to hear what he had to say yesterday?
SCARBOROUGH: You know what? I just don’t want to talk about it, you know, let’s not go back there Willie, it was a tough time for both of us.
BRZEZINSKI: Ugh! We’ll play it coming up at half past the hour. I do want to hear his side of this. I know him well; he’s a good guy. I’m surprised.
GEIST: Kind of reminds me Joe of when I rode the Secretariat to the Triple Crown back in ‘73.
SCARBOROUGH: I was listening to Cosell. As you went down the stretch, remember what Cosell said? “Secretariat, 30 links and little Willie Geist.” It was 1973, June ‘73. Willie how could I forget?
GEIST: It was a great time in my life, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: I was four years removed from going to the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. I’m still waiting for my invitation for “Dancing With the Stars.” I was the third guy to ever walk on the moon, and I can’t even get on “Dancing With the Stars,” Mika.
GEIST: No respect.
SCARBOROUGH: But I will tell ya, it sort of made the transition back to civilian life, watching little Willie Geist win on Secretariat.
SCARBOROUGH: Okay, sorry.
BRZEZINSKI: Nice shot of the sun coming up over the White House. We’re live in Washington this morning.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey did Willie ever tell you the time he won the Masters? It was ‘87, the year after Nicklaus so a lot of people forget. He won in ‘87, I won in ‘89, we don’t like to talk about it.
BRZEZINSKI: Alright, good. Welcome back to “Morning Joe,” it is just after six thirty on the East Coast, time for a quick look...
SCARBOROUGH: Would you like to see my green jacket?
BRZEZINSKI: ...Oh my god, at today’s top stories. Leave him alone. I want to hear what he has to say and we’re going to play the sound bite coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: I’m sure it’s just a few misplaced words.
BRZEZINSKI: It was a few misplaced words.
SCARBOROUGH: Like, I won the Masters. It’s just a few words. Go ahead.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (at press conference): On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that, and I take full responsibility. I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.
SCARBOROUGH: You know Mika, it was so long ago, it was early seventies, I didn’t really know where the Cambodian border was. I had no idea that I was going to spark the protest that I sparked, but I just felt like...what?
BRZEZINSKI: Just be quiet.
BRZEZINSKI: That is not what he did. I’m not defending it.
SCARBOROUGH: As I said to Willie, if not us who? If not now when?
BRZEZINSKI: Okay shut your pie-hole.
SCARBOROUGH: Right, Willie?
BRZEZINSKI: No, Willie. Please.
SCARBOROUGH: A few misplaced words. Okay maybe I wasn’t in Cambodia, maybe I was playing tee ball, but just a few misplaced words.
BRZEZINSKI: We’re joined now by Jeff Zeleny, national political correspondent for The New York Times.
SCARBOROUGH: Jeff was in Vietnam.
BRZEZINSKI: And, uh, right. We actually have The New York Times editorial on this. Why don’t I read it, okay? “There is nothing wrong with having received multiple military deferments during the Vietnam period, as Mr. Blumenthal did, and neither those deferments nor the details of his service in the reserve have any bearing on his fitness to become a senator. But his embellishments do. Mr. Blumenthal, who has an exemplary record as attorney general, has only a few months to demonstrate that they are an aberration and not a disqualifying character trait.” I think that’s fair.
SCARBOROUGH: You know Jeff, uh, yesterday Bob Woodward, Eugene Robinson, Pat Buchanan, myself, all said, Mika I think also said, he needed to step up to the plate and say “I screwed up and I’m really sorry.” But he struck a defiant tone yesterday, which is shocking to me. The Times has him nailed dead to center.
JEFF ZELENY, The New York Times: Which is why I think over the next three days we’ll see if he actually stays in the race or not. I’m not convinced that he will. You talk to a lot of senior Democrats yesterday who are already looking for people. I’m not sure he struck the tone that they wanted him to do. I don’t see how he wins here, going forward. I think it is just pretty difficult for him to make the case to voters. His display yesterday did not strike me as furthering his cause.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat, a few misplaced words. You’ve got Chris Shays, who although a Republican, a friend of Blumenthal’s for two decades, telling The Times, “I was at rallies, and this guy was talking about when we returned from Vietnam, they were spitting upon us.” That’s about as low as you go.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC analyst: Right, he utterly misrepresented his record in the service, and to say, you know, “I just misspoike” is ridiculous. He knew exactly what he was saying, everybody knows it, what he was doing, and just to say, “you know, it was a couple of words, you know, I slipped”–it’s not credible at all and it suggests the guy’s got a character flaw.
SCARBOROUGH: Mika, you’ve been a friend of his for two decades as well, reported on him, like him genuinely, like him politically, you said he fought for the people in Connecticut. But were you impressed by that display?
BRZEZINSKI: No, not at all. And I will say that Connecticut loves this man. He’s done great work for the state, his record has been exemplary as The New York Times points out. I think it would have gone a long way if he had just completely said “listen, I can’t defend it. It was wrong what I did. You know, there’s more of an explanation to it, maybe perhaps if you wanted to sit down and talk about every event I could explain to you what happened and you would understand. But the bottom line is what I did was wrong. I have four kids, that’s how I father. This is how I’d be a leader. I’d admit when I’m wrong.”
SCARBOROUGH: He screwed up.
Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analayis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.