Morning Joe Promotes 'Girther' Conspiracy Theory, Refuses to Drop Dementia Claims

January 17th, 2018 3:16 PM

On Wednesday’s Morning Joe, co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski sunk to a new low by promoting an Internet conspiracy theory claiming that White House physician Ronny Jackson lied to reporters on Tuesday when he announced the results of Trump’s physical exam. Specifically, the “girthers,” as they reportedly call themselves, do not believe that Trump weighs only 239 pounds. For his part, Scarborough questioned not only Jackson’s report of Trump’s weight, but also the doctor’s finding that the President is in good mental health.



Conversely, Brzezinski accepted Dr. Jackson’s conclusion about Trump’s mental fitness, but was “disturbed that they say [Trump]’s cognitively healthy” because she saw this as evidence that Trump’s series of controversial comments as President have been motivated by pure “evil”:

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. You know, um, that along with the fact that the President appears to be, according to the doctor, healthy, worries me, because if he wasn't healthy, that would be a great excuse for this behavior. Now he has none, which you can then deduce other things that are far more nefarious and frightening. Steve Rattner, I won’t ask you to answer to that, but I think it's worth saying. I just wonder, uh, how you look at all this given the fact that there's a shutdown looming.

STEVE RATTNER: Well actually, I had a similar thought about the President, which is I wasn't sure whether I was rooting for him to turn out to be cognitively healthy or cognitively not healthy-

BRZEZINSKI: [interrupting] I’m disturbed that they say he’s cognitively healthy.

RATTNER: [talking under Mika] -because, if you’re cognitively healthy, and you do all this stuff, it’s pretty bad as well.

BRZEZINSKI: I think the word “evil” comes to mind.

Roughly twenty minutes later into the first hour of their broadcast, Morning Joe came back to the story of Dr. Jackson’s press conference and played a short clip of him speaking to reporters:

[...] If he had, uh, some type of mental, uh, cognitive issue, that this test is sensitive enough, it would pick up on it. He would not have got 30 out of 30 on the test. So I'm very confident at this particular stage that he has nothing like that going on. And like I said, my personal experience, uh, has been that he is ve-, he, that, that, that he is, uh -- he has absolutely no, you know, cognitive or, uh, mental issues whatsoever, that he is very sharp. [...]

Given Scarborough’s past role as the vanguard of the “Trump is literally crazy” movement, one might have expected either him or one of his show’s panelists to engage in some serious soul-searching about why they have repeatedly tried to push claims about Trump having predementia.

In this case, that expectation would have been dead wrong, because instead of coming to terms with their history of spreading ridiculous conspiracy theories about Trump’s mental health, Brzezinski followed up Jackson’s statements by launching into a promotion of the “girthers”:

BRZEZINSKI: Dr. Jackson says the President has a lot of energy and stamina, but that he could benefit from diet and exercise. He claims the President is 6'3" and weighs 239 pounds. However, the Internet’s self-proclaimed “girthers” aren't really buying that weight claim.

[Joe laughs]

“Girther” is an obvious play on the “birther” conspiracy. Some are even putting the President side by side to compare him with athletes of simin-, similar height and weight.

At this point, Morning Joe’s production team began to display comparisons of Trump to four NFL players (Latavius Murray, Trey Burton, Jay Cutler, and Carrol Phillips) of comparable physical dimensions. Brzezinski continued to speak as the comparisons filled up the display, wondering aloud: “And, yeah. I'm, I’m not sure. Anybody wanna comment?”

Instead of waiting for a reply, Mika reiterated her concerns about Trump being declared mentally healthy, stating: “I'm not sure if it makes me feel better that, uh, this doctor says that he has no cognitive issues. Makes me feel worse, and more worried for the country.” In response to Mika, New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore jumped in to commiserate with Brzezinski and economic analyst Steve Rattner about how Trump’s comments were evidence that he was a “bad guy” given the lack of objective evidence supporting the proposition that Trump is insane.

Co-host Willie Geist then pulled the conversation back to Jackson, noting that while he had trouble believing the doctor's findings, he ultimately deferred to Jackson's judgement because of former Obama administration officials’ praise for his professionalism and honesty:

GEIST: Some of the numbers are hard to believe. What I would say is that Dr. Jackson has a great reputation. He was-


GEIST: -President Obama's doctor.


GEIST: You had person after person from the Obama White House coming-


GEIST: -out on social media yesterday and saying Do-, Dr. Jackson’s a great doctor,-

BRZEZINSKI: [agreeing] M-hm.

GEIST: -give the conspiracy theories a rest. So, some of those numbers did stop us in our tracks, but, um, I take the doctor at his word.

BRZEZINSKI: [interrupting] No, I think -- me, too.

While Geist’s observations did appear to be a genuine and frank expression of his opinions, Scarborough was not as interested in honestly coming to grips with his past claims that Trump is mentally ill. In response to Geist’s last comment, Joe started laughing, seemingly at the notion that Dr. Jackson should be believed. Having trouble holding back his laughter at several points, Scarborough went on to argue in favor of the “girther” case while simultaneously refusing to let go of his belief that Trump has predementia:

I saw David Axelrod yesterday, uh, saying that he had great respect for the doc-, doctor and he was a straight shooter. That means an awful lot. So, we won't question [giggles] the doctor. I will say on his, his mental sharpness, uh, if that is in fact the case, uh–and medically perhaps that is–uh, he has shocked and surprised a lot of people who have worked around him for the past several years who have been saying, uh, that he is not. And, secondly, I've just got to say on the weight, uh, I know somebody who is 6'3" and weighs close to 239 pounds, and all I can tell you is this: If that's what 239 pounds looked like, I would weigh 170 pounds. So, yes, I have great respect, uh, for people who have great respect for this doctor. Uh, but if that's what 6'3", 239 pounds [laughing] looks like, uh, that's a shock to me, uh, only because, uh, people I know very well that are 6'3" and weigh close to 239 pounds look like they weigh about 30 or 40 pounds less than that.

So, in addition to Scarborough’s powers of clairvoyance in diagnosing Trump with various mental illnesses by watching him on TV, apparently Joe can also precisely weigh people by looking at pictures of them.

Brzezinski closed out the panel’s discussion of Dr. Jackson’s press conference by once again repeating her point that she took the doctor at his word regarding Trump’s mental health and expressed how “truly frightening” it was for her to consider that Trump has been sane for the past year.